Please note that nothing on this website is official information.  CT DROUGHT reports here.


Latest from Iceland - which has a lot of volcanic activity.

April 2014, another type of disaster, New York TIMES' series (segment #1); Chile 2015 season begins...

NEW ORLEANS - HAITI;  BATON ROUGE: N.O.A.A. IMAGE (l.);  Mount Redoubt blows pretty high March '09...ash covers the snow.  Indonesia, flood, typhoon, quake.   Iceland's volcanic eruptions... HAITI:  An interesting history (from U. Maine student work) - volcano erupts (AK) and Indonesia earthen dam gives way - someone say "dam?".  New Orleans' category 5 hurricane.  Inching up year by year is the threat to Venice...more big events...JAPAN DOUBLE DISASTER MARCH 11, 2011.  ARE THERE OTHER THREATS?  Consider this...twisters and their proclivity to seek out mobile homes.  CHILE volcano.

Link to more...related to GLOBAL WARMING, perhaps?


U.S.G.S. Earthquakes in the past 30 days:
50th Anniversary of Alaska Earthquake (Mar. 27, 1964) stories handed down...ADN story part three.
Earthquakes in China here.
Japanese belief re: link to oarfish here


Basically, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones and typhoons occur in the air while tsunamis occur in the water (wikianswers).  Furthermore, in the northern hemisphere, hurricanes generally rotate counter-clockwise and clockwise in the southern hemisphere (Yahooanswers)

Another source...
Hurricane? Cyclone? Typhoon? Here's the difference

By SETH BORENSTEIN | Associated Press
Nov. 10, 2013 (when we read it after the NYTIMES referenced it)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A powerful typhoon hit the Philippines on Friday and was heading Saturday toward Vietnam. Facts about typhoons:

HURRICANE? CYCLONE? TYPHOON? They're all the same, officially tropical cyclones. But they just use distinctive terms for a storm in different parts of the world. Hurricane is used in the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, central and northeast Pacific. They are typhoons in the northwest Pacific. In the Bay of Bengal and the Arabia Sea, they are called cyclones. Tropical cyclone is used in the southwest India Ocean; in the southwestern Pacific and southeastern India Ocean they are severe tropical cyclones.

STRENGTH: A storm gets a name and is considered a tropical storm at 39 mph (63 kph). It becomes a hurricane, typhoon, tropical cyclone, or cyclone at 74 mph (119 kph). There are five strength categories, depending on wind speed. The highest category is 5 and that's above 155 mph (249 kph). Australia has a different system for categorizing storm strength.

ROTATION: If they are north of the equator they rotate counterclockwise. If they are south, they rotate clockwise.

SEASON: The Atlantic and central Pacific hurricane seasons are June 1 through Nov. 30. Eastern Pacific: May 15 to Nov. 30; northwestern Pacific season is close to all year, with the most from May to November. The cyclone season in the south Pacific and Australia runs from November to April. The Bay of Bengal has two seasons April to June and September to November.

WHERE IS THE BUSIEST PLACE? The northwestern Pacific where Typhoon Haiyan has just hit. A normal year there involves 27 named storms. Haiyan is the 28th named storm and there has already been a 29th. By comparison the Atlantic averages 11 named storms a year and this year there have been 12, none of them causing major problems.

WHO DECIDES THE NAMES? The lists are maintained by the World Meteorological Organization; the names are ones that are familiar in each region. Names are taken off the list and replaced to avoid confusion if a hurricane causes a lot of damage or deaths. For example, Katrina was retired after it devastated New Orleans in 2005. The Philippines has its own naming system, so Typhoon Haiyan is also being called Yolanda.

HOW DOES EL NINO AFFECT STORMS? During an El Nino — when the central Pacific is warming — there are fewer Atlantic storms. El Ninos shift where storms form, but not the number, for the northwest Pacific and the southwest Pacific. The central Pacific gets more storms during El Nino and the year after. This year has neither an El Nino nor its opposite, a La Nina. It is a neutral year.


SOURCES: World Meteorological Organization, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Weather Underground.


50th Anniversary of Alaska event Mar. 27, 1964.  From N.O.A.A.

NYTIMES report here on relation of tornadoes to global warming.

Results from overflow of rivers... according to Wikipedia.

How about mudslides?  Based on soils, overbuilding, etc.?

One of the results of any number of other types of natural disasters explained on this page




Did someone say "Krakatoa East of Java?"  Mount Merapi active as tsunami from earthquake hits elsewhere in the country.  Pretty awesome, day or night!  Even when volcano only belches!

Lava flow article, I-BBC. 


Looks like the view out the window of our hotel in...Seattle (Mt. Rainier).

Japan finds another gap in its disaster readiness - Mount Fuji
By Sophie Knight | Reuters – Sat, Sep 15, 2012TOKYO

(Reuters) - When Toshitsugu Fujii became head of a Japanese task force on disaster response at Mount Fuji, he was confronted with a startling oversight. Japan had no plan in place to deal with a disaster in which an earthquake sparks a volcanic eruption at the country's most famous landmark.  Fujii said a tremor "greatly increases" the chance of an eruption in a country that has experienced nearly 12,000 earthquakes since the magnitude 9.0 tremor that led to disaster on March 11, 2011.

"They always forget about the volcanoes," he said. "The government has never included Mt. Fuji in its earthquake scenarios."

Fujii's job is to change that. More than a year after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown that scarred a generation of Japanese, the government is still working to close the gaps in its disaster response.  Scientists say that the 2011 earthquake may have increased the chances of Mount Fuji erupting. The disaster caused a series of tremors around the mountain, including a magnitude 6.4 quake directly beneath it that caused a 20 meter-long crack in its side and put pressure on the volcano's magma chamber. 

The volcano is active and if an eruption was to occur it would potentially threaten a vast area including Tokyo, 100 km (62 miles) away.  Still, Japan's tallest point at 3,776 meters (12,388 feet) and a national symbol that adorns Japanese passports has been silent since 1707.

"Although there are no signs of any irregularities at present, we need to watch it very carefully for another two or three years," said Eisuke Fujita, a senior volcano researcher at the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention.

Fujita said there have been many examples of volcanoes erupting following a magnitude 9 earthquake, as in Kamchatka, Chile and Sumatra.

"The government has to prepare for a logistical nightmare," he said. "They've said they are going to do something but they haven't got their act together so far."

Part of the problem is the fractured nature of Japanese bureaucracy, with a division between the teams planning for earthquakes and eruptions.

"We don't include an eruption at Mt. Fuji in our earthquake scenarios because we simply don't know whether a quake would cause one or not," a Cabinet office spokesman told Reuters.

The Cabinet in August set up a task force to draft a disaster response plan based on a hazard map drawn up in 2004.  The map shows the areas likely to be affected by lava flows or an ash cloud and it sets priorities for evacuating the surrounding population. Fujii, who heads the committee and is both a professor emeritus at Tokyo University and executive director of the Crisis and Environment Management Policy Institute, said the government had so far failed to set up sufficient defenses against even its own worst-case scenario.

Under that scenario, the 2004 map suggests economic damage from an eruption would be 2.5 trillion yen ($32 billion).

But it could be "several times" that, Fujii said.

Shizuoka, a prefecture that borders the mountain, will include for the first time an eruption as part of a revised earthquake contingency plan due to be published next June.  Local communities most at risk have been reluctant to discuss such a scenario in the past, concerned it would impact tourism.  A book published in 1983 wrongfully warning of an imminent eruption was blamed for driving tourists away and causing a $3 million loss in revenues for a prefecture bordering the volcano.

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc, the operator of the Fukushima power plant where the nuclear meltdown happened, described the March 11 disaster as "unforeseeable," despite historical evidence to the contrary.  Critics of the Mount Fuji hazard map say it has omitted several potential consequences of an eruption, ignoring past events.  This includes a partial collapse of the mountain, which could trigger a landslide and an enormous tsunami along Japan's south coast, Masaki Takahashi, professor of geology and volcanology at Nihon University, said.

"Most volcanoes only have one partial collapse in their lifetime, but Fuji has already had two in 20,000 years, meaning it cannot be ruled out as a possibility in the future."

Steam spills from Mt Tongariro after the mountain erupted for the first time in over 100 years on August 8, 2012 in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. Mt Tongariro erupted intermittently from 1855 to 1897. Although not an immediate threat to the community, the latest eruption may be the beginning of weeks, months or even years of volcanic activity. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) established standards for safety at altitude.

Pictures from last year, and there were similar such ones in 2011, too.

Chile, Argentina order evacuation around stirring southern volcano
Mon May 27, 2013 4:41pm EDT

(Reuters) - Chilean and Argentine authorities on Monday declared a red alert and ordered the mandatory evacuation of a 25-km (15.5-mile) radius around the active Copahue volcano, which straddles the border between the two Andean nations.

The volcano - located some 500 km (310 miles) south of capital Santiago, between Chile's Bio Bio region and Argentina's Neuquen province - has seen increasing seismic activity in recent weeks but has not erupted, Chilean authorities said.

"This doesn't necessarily mean the volcano will start erupting. But according to the Sernageomin (National Geological and Mining Service), the volcano is now in a process that could culminate in an eruption, for that reason we've issued a red alert and the evacuation," Chilean Interior Minister Andres Chadwick told a nationally televised news conference.

Authorities estimated that some 2,240 people will be evacuated in Chile.

In Argentina's Neuquen province, authorities also declared a "red alert," and ordered the evacuation of some 900 people in tourist-haven Caviahue-Copahue. The Argentine municipality had previously ordered the cancellation of school classes.

Close to the Chilean side of the volcano, in Bio Bio region, power generator Endesa Chile operates the Ralco and Pangue hydroelectric dams, which have not been affected by the evacuation order.

Endesa Chile is monitoring the situation, a company source told Reuters. Water levels at the dams are at technical lows, which would avoid the possible need to open the floodgates, and the dams' walls are designed to withstand earthquakes, the source said.

In mid-2011, ash from a volcano in Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle chain that erupted after decades of lying dormant forced the sporadic cancellation of hundreds of flights, especially in neighboring Argentina and Uruguay.

Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Saturday, 29 May 2010 12:00 UK

Thousands flee volcanos in Ecuador and Guatemala

Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes as two volcanos erupted in Guatemala and Ecuador.

In Guatemala, the Pacaya volcano began spewing lava, rocks and debris on Thursday, killing at least two people and injuring more than 50 others.

In Ecuador, the Tungurahua volcano forced the evacuation of seven villages and shut the airport and schools in Guayaquil, the country's largest city.

There is no suggestion the upsurge in volcanic activity is related.

In Guatemala, at least 1,700 people have fled the eruption, some 30km (19 miles) south of the capital city.

President Alvaro Colom has declared a state of emergency in Escuintla region, Guatemala City and areas surrounding the capital.

He said two people had died and three children were missing.

One man was killed when he fell from a building while sweeping up the ash. A TV reporter also died while covering the eruption.

In the village of Calderas, close to the eruption, Brenda Castaneda said her family hid under furniture as molten rocks fell on her house.

"We thought we wouldn't survive. Our houses crumbled and we've lost everything," she told the Associated Press from a temporary shelter.

The volcano has covered parts of Guatemala City in ash - up to 7cm (2.7in) thick in some areas - forcing the closure of the country's main international airport.

Seismologists have warned of more eruptions "in the coming days" from Pacaya - one of the most active volcanos in Central America.

Health concerns

In Ecuador, the Tungurahua volcano sent ash plumes six miles (10km) into the air.

Several thousand people have been evacuated near Tungurahua

Several thousand people have evacuated their homes in the area, 95 miles (150km) south-east of the capital Quito.

Strong winds blew the ash over the country's most populous city, Guayaquil, and forced aviation officials to close the country's main airport.

Julio Castro, who lives in Guayaquil, said he was worried about the health of children.

"Suddenly, without warning, the ash started to fall, and it was heavy, some even got into my eyes," he told the Associated Press.

"I can't see well now, it is annoying and we are worried for the children, above all."

There were reports that the ash cloud was dissipating as it drifted out over the Pacific Ocean.


A steam of column rises from Hudson volcano, as seen from a flight near Coihaique town some 1649 km (1025 miles) south of Santiago, October 27, 2011. Chile said on Wednesday it was evacuating residents from around a volcano in the country's far south after it spewed a jet of steam a kilometer into the air and seismic activity triggered an avalanche. REUTERS/Stringer (CHILE - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

7 November 2010 Last updated at 11:23 ET
Move to airlift Malaysians as Merapi volcano rumbles on

Malaysia has moved to airlift hundreds of its nationals from Indonesia as Mount Merapi volcano continues its massive eruption.  It sent three C-130 transport aircraft to Solo airport to collect 664 stranded Malaysians, many of them students.  Some airlines have stopped flying to Jakarta over fears of ash damage.

On a visit to refugees from the eruption, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said there was no sign of the eruption abating.  Speaking at a stadium in Yogyakarta province, he said 283,000 people had now been forced to flee.  More than 130 people have died since Merapi began erupting two weeks ago, its greatest activity in a century.

Victims were being given a mass burial in Yogyakarta on Sunday.

As relatives wept and men recited traditional Islamic prayers, villagers and policemen unloaded the corpses - some in plain wooden coffins, others still in the morgue's yellow body bags - from ambulances, an Associated Press correspondent reports.  They were placed in a massive trench, dug into a large green field in the shadow of the volcano.

The infamously volatile mountain unleashed its most powerful eruption on Friday, sending hot clouds of gas, rocks and debris down its slopes at frightening speeds, smothering entire villages and leaving a trail of charred corpses.

'All seats booked'

According to the Associated Press news agency, the first Malaysian evacuees were flown out of Solo on Sunday with others due to be collected on Monday.  Solo is about 30km (20 miles) from the volcano.

Jakarta airport official Frans Yosef told AFP news agency that eight international flights to Jakarta were cancelled on Sunday and 42 rescheduled.  Internal flights to Yogyakarta, Solo and Bandung - all cities close to Merapi in the centre of the main island of Java - were also disrupted.  Frustration among air travellers was growing, the agency reports.

"We called three airlines but all the seats were booked," said Singapore resident Raymond Yong, 34, whose Lufthansa flight home from Jakarta was cancelled.

"I don't understand why the airlines have to cancel flights when there are others which are operating just fine. I have to work tomorrow and this is such a major inconvenience."

US President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Jakarta on 9 November for a long-expected visit. White House officials said on Saturday there was no sign so far of any disruption to his schedule.

Many flee Indonesia volcano amid fears of eruption
By SARAH DiLORENZO, Associated Press
8 November 2010

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – Frightened residents abandoned their homes in a bustling city of 400,000 at the foot of Indonesia's rumbling volcano Monday, cramming onto trains, buses and rented vehicles as authorities warned Mount Merapi could erupt again at any time.

A mass burial late Sunday for many of the 141 people killed in the last two weeks was a reminder of the mountain's devastating power that culminated in its deadliest blast in 80 years, sending hot clouds of gas, rocks and debris avalanching down its slopes.

With the closest airport closed by ash, rail traffic leaving Yogyakarta has doubled in recent days, as residents — many of them students from the city's universities — tried desperately to get out.

"My parents have been calling ... saying 'You have to get out of there! You have to come home!'" said Linda Ervana, a 21-year-old history student who was waiting with friends at a train station.

After days of failing to get tickets — long lines stretch all the way through the main hall — they decided to rent a minibus with other classmates.

"It feels like that movie '2012,'" said her 22-year-old friend, Paulina Setin. "Like a disaster in a movie..."

Airlines stop Jakarta flights after volcano blast
By SARAH DiLORENZO, Associated Press
6 November 2010

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – The tiny hospital at the foot of Mount Merapi struggled Saturday to cope with its victims after the volcano unleashed its most powerful eruption in a century, as international airlines canceled flights into the Indonesian capital hundreds of miles away.

The only sign of life in one man, whose eyes were milky gray in color and never blinked, was the shallow rising and falling of his chest. Others, their lungs choked with abrasive volcanic ash, struggled to breathe.

Indonesia's most volatile mountain unleashed a surge of searing gas, rocks and debris Friday that raced down its slopes at highway speeds, torching houses and trees and incinerating villagers caught in its path.

It continued to rumble and groan Saturday, at times spitting gray clouds of ash and gas up to five miles (eight kilometers) into the air, dusting windshields, rooftops and leaves on trees hundreds of miles (kilometers) away Saturday.  Several international carriers for the first time temporarily canceled flights to the capital Jakarta — 280 miles (450 kilometers) west of Merapi — over concerns volcanic ash in the air could cause damage to their aircraft and engines, jeopardizing safety.

Among them were Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Malaysia Airlines.  With more than 90 people killed, many of them after succumbing to their injuries, Friday was Merapi's deadliest day in decades, but Sigit Priohutomo, who works at Sardjito hospital, predicted the toll would rise.

With a nearby airport closed because of poor visibility, ventilators needed for burn victims were stuck in Jakarta, and were being delivered instead by road, he said. In meantime, nursing students were using emergency respirators pumped by hand.  The volcano, in the heart of densely populated Java island, has erupted many times in the last two centuries, but many people choose to live on its rolling slopes, drawn to soil made fertile by molten lava and volcanic debris.  In recent days, however, more than 200,000 people have crammed into emergency shelters in the shadows of the volcano, which showed no signs of tiring.

"It's scary. ... The eruption just keeps going on," said Wajiman, 58, who was sitting in a shelter near a girl reading a newspaper headlined "Merapi isn't finished yet."

Packed together on muddy floors, flies landing on the faces of sleeping refugees, many complained of poor sanitation, saying there were not enough toilets or clean drinking water.  The village hardest hit Friday, Bronggang, was nine miles (15 kilometers) from the glowing crater, still within the perimeter of the government-delineated "safe zone."

The zone has since been expanded to a ring 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the peak, bringing it to the edge of the ancient royal capital of Yogyakarta, which has been put on its highest alert.  The biggest threat is the Code River, which flows into the city of 400,000 from the 9,700-foot (3,000-meter) mountain and could act as conduit for deadly volcanic mudflows that form in heavy rains.

Racing at speeds of 60 mph (100 kph), the molten lava, rocks and other debris, can destroy everything in their path.  People living near the river's banks have been advised to stay away.  Several were seen packing up Saturday, as Yogyakarta was pounded by rain, and later a light sprinkle, turning the dust covering streets, cars and rooftops into a wet, dark sludge.

Merapi's latest round of eruptions began Oct. 26, followed by more than a dozen other powerful blasts and thousands of tremors.  With each new eruption, scientists and officials have steadily pushed the villagers who live along Merapi's slopes farther from the crater.

The latest eruption released 1,765 million cubic feet (50 million cubic meters) of volcanic material, making it "the biggest in at least a century" at Merapi, state volcanologist Gede Swantika said as plumes of smoke continued to shoot up more than 30,000 feet (10,000 meters).  Priohutomo, the hospital official, said the mountain has killed 138 in the last two weeks.  More than 200 injured people — with burns, respiratory problems, broken bones and cuts — waited to be treated at three different hospitals.

"We're totally overwhelmed here!" hospital spokesman Heru Nogroho said.

Some of Merapi's victims had burns covering up to 95 percent of their bodies.  The facility's burn unit is limited to 10 beds, however, and it turns away any patient without facial burns or whose body is burned less than 40 percent, said Priohutomo.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanoes because it sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific Ocean.

The article below explains what happened to this animal
Indonesia’s Deadly Volcano Erupts Again
November 5, 2010

MAGUWOHARJO, Indonesia — A powerful overnight eruption of Mount Merapi created chaos for Indonesia’s disaster response effort on Friday after an explosion of hot gases and debris killed scores of people and sent more than 160,000 villagers fleeing to underprepared evacuation camps.

At least 64 people were killed by the latest eruption, which was by far the largest since the volcano on central Java Island started spewing ash and gas on Oct. 26. The latest eruption brings the total death toll to 109, said Andi Arief, the disaster adviser to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The eruption sent a pyroclastic flow of superheated gases and debris racing down Merapi’s slopes. Tens of thousands rushed to abandon camps previously considered safe as ash and hot debris rained down as far as the central Javanese city of Yogyakarta.

Most of those killed were villagers engulfed by a rush of hot gases that hit the hamlets of Argomulyo and Bronggang about 12 kilometers, or 7.5 miles, from the volcano’s rim, blasting homes, people and animals, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the disaster preparedness chief of the National Disaster Management Agency.

“They lived in a bend in the Gendol River. So when the pyroclastic flow launched down the river, it hit the bend and crashed into the villages,” Mr. Nugroho said.

“They’d been told to evacuate, there were a lot of soldiers up there to get them out but a lot of people had gone up using small roads so got up there undetected,” he said.

Heavy white ash covered the runways at the airport in nearby Yogyakarta, forcing it to close Friday, The Associated Press reported. It was not clear when it would reopen.

The latest, unexpected eruption prompted authorities to extend the evacuation radius around Mount Merapi to 20 kilometers, or 12.5 miles, from 15 kilometers. An earlier eruption the day before had caused it to be extended from an initial 10 kilometers.

Despite chaos as authorities abandoned previous havens, Mr. Nugroho said it was the right approach to keep evacuees so close to the erupting volcano.

“It wasn’t a mistake, but Merapi’s character has been hard to predict,” he said. “If from the start we’d said to evacuate 20 kilometers, or 25 kilometers, there would have been major consequences. It would have triggered panic in the community.”

With tens of thousands evacuating camps, and tens of thousands more abandoning villages, police, troops and aid workers struggled to deal with crowds at new collection points further away from the smoldering mountain.

At the Maguwoharjo Stadium on Yogyakarta’s outer fringe, nearly 30,000 people arrived covered in dust to take shelter in squalid spaces underneath concrete awnings. Outside, the sky was obscured by swirling gray-brown ash.

Sutarjo, a neighbourhood chief from the village of Wukirsari — which was designated safe before the eruption early Thursday — said villagers and evacuees from up the mountain who were sheltering in the neighborhood fled in terror as the mountain boomed and hot debris rained from the sky.

“It was a real panic. I was responsible for 142 people and it was tough finding vehicles to deal with this,” Mr. Sutarjo said, adding that he was unable to get help from police or soldiers and was forced to run for a kilometer, or about half a mile, to find vehicles to carry the evacuees.

“The government from the start said it they only needed 10 kilometers” to evacuate, he said. “But they were wrong.”

“Thank God, we’re all safe,” he said, adding that he planned to take a group of village men back through the evacuation zone at night to tend to livestock left behind.

Relief workers at the stadium said the surprising strength of the eruption meant that the growing camp was disorganized.

“It’s still chaos,” said Endang Pujiastuti, a member of the local disaster-management committee, as soldiers unloaded boxes of water and instant food and Red Cross volunteers recorded arrivals.

“We’d already set this up as a place and decided where people from different district should go, but we weren’t ready for this to happen so fast,” she said.

The scale of the latest eruption prompted President Yudhoyono to transfer responsibility for the response from local agencies to the national disaster agency, as well as ordering the addition of more police and soldiers.

“We don’t want decision making in a crises like this to be long and drawn out,” he said.

The government would also compensate evacuated villagers for lost livestock so they would not be tempted to return to their farms, Mr. Yudhoyono said.

Indonesian volcano shoots out searing gas clouds

By SLAMET RIYADI, Associated Press
4 Nov. 2010

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – Local television is reporting that an eruption at Indonesia's deadly volcano has sent searing clouds of ash cascading down the mountain, setting several houses ablaze in a slope-side village.  A rescue worker told TVOne at least one man was killed and footage showed more than a dozen injured being carried into a hospital on stretchers early Friday.  It was not immediately clear why the village — 6 miles (8 kilometers) from the crater and well inside the "danger-zone" — had not been evacuated.

Witnesses told the station more victims were waiting for help.  Mount Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has claimed at least 44 lives since bursting back to life on Oct. 26. More than 100 others have been injured.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia (AP) — Eruptions at Indonesia's deadly volcano appeared to be intensifying Thursday as towering clouds of ash shot from the crater with a thunder-like roar, dusting towns up to 150 miles (250 kilometers) away and forcing motorists to switch on their headlights during the day.  The death toll climbed to 44 — with six more casualties recorded in the last 24 hours — and the government repeated orders to airlines to stay clear of the unpredictable mountain.

Mount Merapi, which means "Fire Mountain," is one of the world's most active volcanoes.

But even those who have dedicated a lifetime to studying it have been baffled by its erratic behavior since its first Oct. 26 eruption, which has been followed by more than a dozen other powerful blasts and thousands of volcanic tremors.  They'd earlier hoped that would result in a long, slow release of energy.

"But we have no idea what to expect now," said Surono, a state volcanologist, adding that he has never seen the needle on Merapi's seismograph working with such intensity.

The fear is that a new lava dome forming in the mouth of the crater will collapse, triggering a deadly surge of up to 1,800 degree Fahrenheit (1,000 degree Celsius) ash and gas — known to experts as pyroclastic flows — at speeds of 60 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour).  Though more than 75,000 people living along its fertile slopes have been evacuated to crowded emergency shelters away from the crater, dozens risk their lives to return during periods of calm to check on their livestock and homes.

With no winds early Thursday, white clouds from Merapi fired a spectacular 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) into the sky. Gusts later carried the smoke westward, dusting roof tops, trees and laundry lines far away with thick white powder. Rain pounded the region later in the day, clogging mountainside rivers with molten rocks and debris.  Activity at Merapi has at times briefly forced nearby airports to close and the Transportation Ministry reiterated Thursday that flight paths near the mountain had been shut down for safety reasons.

Officials insisted, however, that a Qantas jetliner forced to make an emergency landing after one of its four engines failed over Batam, an island 800 miles (1,400 kilometers) to the west, was unrelated.

"There was no connection with Mount Merapi," said Bambang Ervan, a spokesman for the Transportation Ministry. "It was too far from the volcano — the sky over Singapore and Sumatra island is free of dust."

Merapi has killed at least 44 people since Oct. 26, said Eka Saputra, a disaster official, raising the toll after three people died in a ferocious eruption Wednesday and another succumbed to injuries from an earlier blast. The cause of the other two most recent deaths was not clear.  In 1994, 60 people were killed, while in 1930, more than a dozen villages were torched, leaving up to 1,300 dead.

Mount Merapi's "danger zone" was widened for the second time in as many days Friday following another booming explosion around midnight.  Subandrio, a state volcanologist, said people living in villages and emergency camps within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of the crater were told to clear out.  Thousands of men, women and children were loaded into trucks and taken to stadiums in cities far from the mountain, while others, covered in soot, jumped onto motorcycles and into cars.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanos because it sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific.  The volcano's initial blast occurred less than 24 hours after a towering tsunami slammed into the remote Mentawai islands on the western end of the country, sweeping entire villages to sea and killing at least 428 people.

There, too, thousands of people were displaced, many living in government camps.

Indonesian volcano erupts, 20 hurt by hot ash
By SLAMET RIYADI, Associated Press
26 October 2010

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – Indonesia's most volatile volcano started erupting Tuesday, after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful eruption in years. A 2-month old baby reportedly died as panicked villagers fled the area.

Up to 20 people were injured by hot ash spewed from Mount Merapi, said an AP reporter who witnessed them being taken away for treatment.

Some 11,400 villagers who live on the 9,737-foot (2,968-metre) -high mountain were urged to evacuate, but only those with four miles (seven kilometers) of the crater were forced by authorities to do so. Most of those who fled were the elderly and children. Some adults said they decided to stay to tend to homes and farms on the fertile slopes.

Private MetroTV reported that the baby died when a mother ran in panic after the eruption started. Its report cited a local doctor and showed the mother weeping as the baby was covered with white blanket at a hospital. The report did not make clear if it was a boy or girl.

Subandriyo, chief vulcanologist in the area, said the eruption started just before dusk Tuesday. The volcano had rumbled and groaned for hours.

"There was a thunderous rumble that went on for ages, maybe 15 minutes," said Sukamto, a farmer who by nightfall had yet to abandon his home on the slopes. "Then huge plumes of hot ash started shooting up into the air."

Scientists have warned the pressure building beneath the dome could presage one of the biggest eruptions in years at Merapi, literally Mountain of Fire, which lies on the main island of Java, some 310 miles (500 kilometers) southeast of the capital Jakarta.

The alert level for Merapi has been raised to its highest level.

"The energy is building up. ... We hope it will release slowly," government volcanologist Surono told reporters. "Otherwise we're looking at a potentially huge eruption, bigger than anything we've seen in years."

In 2006, an avalanche of blistering gases and rock fragments raced down the volcano and killed two people. A similar eruption in 1994 killed 60 people, and 1,300 people died in a 1930 blast.

Indonesian officials were also trying to assess the impact of a 7.7-magnitude earthquake late Monday that caused a tsunami off Sumatra island in western Indonesia, leaving scores of villagers dead or missing. The volcano and earthquake epicenter are about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) apart.

This vast archipelago is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity due to its location on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire — a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

There are more than 129 active volcanoes to watch in Indonesia, which is spread across 17,500 islands.

Indonesian volcano erupts again; strongest yet
By BINSAR BAKKARA, Associated Press Writer
7 September 2010

TANAH KARO, Indonesia – An Indonesian volcano shot a towering cloud of black ash high into the air Tuesday, dusting villages 15 miles (25 kilometers) away in its most powerful eruption since awakening last week from four centuries of dormancy.  Some witnesses at the foot of Mount Sinabung reported seeing an orange glow — presumably magma — in cracks along the volcano's slopes for the first time. Vast swaths of trees and plants were caked with a thick layer of ash.

"There was a huge, thunderous sound. It sounded like hundreds of bombs going off at one," said Ita Sitepu, 29, who was among thousands of people staying in crowded emergency shelters well away from the base. "Then everything starting shaking. I've never experienced anything like it."

Mount Sinabung's first eruption last week caught many scientists off guard. With more than 129 active volcanoes to watch in this vast archipelago, local vulcanologists had failed to monitor the long-quiet mountain for rising magma, slight uplifts in land and other signs of seismic activity. 

Indonesia is a seismically charged region because of its location on the so-called "Ring of Fire" — a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.  There are fears that current activity could foreshadow a much more destructive explosion in the coming weeks or months, though it is possible, too, that Sinabung will go back to sleep after letting off steam.  More than 30,000 people living along the volcano's fertile slopes have been relocated to cramped refugee camps, mosques and churches in nearby villages.

But some have insisted on returning to the danger zone to check on their homes and their dust-covered crops.  The government sent dozens of trucks to the mountain to help carry them back before Tuesday's eruption, which sent ash and debris shooting three miles (5,000 meters) into the air, said Surono, who heads the nation's volcano alert center.

"It was really terrifying," said Anissa Siregar, 30, as she and her two children arrived at one of the makeshift camps, adding that the mountain shook violently for at least three minutes. "It just keeps getting worse."

Local media said ash had reached as far as Berastagi, a district 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the base of the mountain.  Surono, who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name, said activity was definitely on the rise: There were more than 80 volcanic earthquakes in the 24-hour lead-up to the blast, compared to 50 on Friday, when ash and debris shot nearly two miles (3,000 meters).

The eruption early Tuesday occurred just after midnight during a torrential downpour. Witnesses said volcanic ash and mud oozed down the mountain's slopes, flooding into abandoned homes. Others said saw bursts of fire and hot ash.  The force of the explosion could be felt five miles (eight kilometers) away.

Indonesia has recorded some of the largest eruptions in history.  The 1815 explosion of Mount Tambora buried the inhabitants of Sumbawa Island under searing ash, gas and rock, killing an estimated 88,000 people. 
The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa could be heard 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) away and blackened skies region-wide for months. At least 36,000 people were killed in the blast and the tsunami that followed

Volcano in Iceland
21 March, 15 April and latest, 15 May 2010:  I-BBC reports..."The volcano has become more active again in recent weeks"

Icelandic volcano flings up ash, shuts airport
22 May 2011

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Iceland closed its main international airport and canceled all domestic flights Sunday as a powerful volcanic eruption sent a plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles (20 kilometers) into the air.

The eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano was far larger than one a year ago at another Icelandic volcano that upended travel plans for 10 million people around the world, but scientists said it was unlikely to have the same widespread effect.

University of Iceland geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson said this eruption, which began Saturday, was Grimsvotn's largest eruption for 100 years.

"(It was) much bigger and more intensive than Eyjafjallajokull," the volcano whose April 2010 eruption shut down airspace across Europe for five days, he said.

"There is a very large area in southeast Iceland where there is almost total darkness and heavy fall of ash," he said. "But it is not spreading nearly as much. The winds are not as strong as they were in Eyjafjallajokull."

He said this ash is coarser than last year's eruption, falling to the ground more quickly instead of floating vast distances.

The ash plunged areas near the volcano in southeast Iceland into darkness Sunday and covered buildings, cars and fields in a thick layer of gray soot. Civil protection workers urged residents to wear masks and stay indoors.

Iceland's air traffic control operator ISAVIA said the Keflavik airport, the country's main hub, closed down at 0830 GMT (4:30 a.m. EDT) for the day.

Spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir said the ash plume was covering Iceland, but "the good news is that it is not heading to Europe," blowing northwest toward Greenland instead.

President Barack Obama was flying Sunday night to Ireland, but there was no immediate word on whether the volcano would affect Air Force One's flight path.

Trans-Atlantic flights were being diverted away from Iceland, but there was no indication the eruption would cause the widespread travel disruption triggered last year by ash from Eyjafjallajokull.

In April 2010, officials closed the continent's air space for five days, fearing the ash could harm jet engines. Millions of travelers were stranded.

The Grimsvotn volcano, which lies under the uninhabited Vatnajokull glacier about 120 miles (200 kilometers) east of the capital, Reykjavik, began erupting Saturday for the first time since 2004.

Gudmundsson said the new eruption was 10 times as powerful as the one in 2004, which lasted for several days and briefly disrupted international flights. Grimsvotn also exploded in 1998, 1996 and 1993, eruptions that lasted between a day and several weeks.

Sparsely populated Iceland is one of the world's most volcanically active countries and eruptions are frequent. Grimsvotn and Iceland's other major volcanoes lie on the Atlantic Rift, the meeting of the Euro and American continental plates.

Eruptions often cause local flooding from melting glacier ice, but rarely cause deaths.

Gudmundsson said it was hard to predict how long the eruption would last, but it might already be slowing.

"There are some signs the eruption plume is getting lower now," he said. "We may be seeing the first sign that it is starting to decline. In two or three days the worst should be over."

Eruption at Iceland Volcano Slows, but Not Over
Filed at 10:06 a.m. ET
August 16, 2010

LONDON (AP) -- Icelandic authorities say seismic activity is petering out at the volcano in Iceland that caused major disruption to European air traffic this summer.

Sigurlaug Hjaltadottir, a geophysicist with Iceland's Meteorological Office, says seismic activity at the Eyjafjallajokul volcano has decreased in recent weeks, though the eruption has not yet been declared officially over.

Eyjafjallajokul (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) erupted April 14 for the first time in almost two centuries.

Danger to planes from the volcanic ash plume led most northern European countries to close airspace April 15-20, grounding about 10 million travelers worldwide.

Iceland's Civil Protection Agency says the main hazard now is from mud flows caused by ash mixing with heavy rain.

Britain and Ireland Shut Some Airspace Due to Ash
Filed at 8:24 a.m. ET
May 16, 2010

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland shut several of its airports and Britain imposed a no-fly zone on parts of its airspace on Sunday as another cloud of ash from a volcano in Iceland looked set to disrupt European air travel again.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said three northwestern airports were closed from early Sunday but other hubs, such as Dublin, would remain open until later in the day.  North Atlantic overflights through Irish-controlled airspace remain unaffected despite the cloud drifting over the country. Ash spewed from the same volcano in Iceland wreaked havoc on European air traffic last month.

Britain's National Air Traffic Service said a no-fly zone would be imposed over parts of Scotland and England between 1200 GMT (8 a.m. EDT) and 1800 GMT (2 p.m. EDT) on Sunday due to the volcanic ash but London airports will not be affected.  Manchester, Liverpool, Doncaster, Carlisle, Humberside and East Midlands airports fall within the no-fly zone, as do all airports in Northern Ireland, NATS said. Airports in parts of Scotland and the Isle of Man will also be affected.

The government on Saturday warned that parts of British airspace might have to close until Tuesday with different parts including the southeast, where Europe's busiest airport Heathrow is located, likely to be closed at different times.

"Long range forecasts indicate that the ash cloud may cause further disruption into tomorrow but this is not certain," Manchester airport said in a statement.

The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland is continuing to erupt with no signs of the explosive activity about to end and an ash plume reaching heights of 25,000 feet, Britain's Met Office said.

"Winds are expected to blow mainly from the northwest for a time over the weekend with the risk of ash affecting some parts of the UK," it said.

"However, winds are predicted to swing into a south westerly direction by the middle of next week, which would take most of any ash away from the British Isles."


In Ireland, the IAA said it was carrying out observation flights at a number of altitudes and would provide an update later in the day. Dublin airport would remain open until 1800 GMT while Shannon, an important stop-over for flights to the United States, would be open until 2200 GMT, it added.

Elsewhere in Europe, German airlines' association said no restriction of German air traffic was expected due to the ash, and German airlines were operating flights as normal. Airline Lufthansa said it was conducting a test flight to collect data over Europe to measure the ash concentration.  In the Netherlands, an Amsterdam Schiphol airport spokeswoman there were no expected closures in Dutch airspace.

Much of Europe's airspace was closed for six days in mid-April over fears that ash from the Icelandic volcano would cause aircraft to crash, causing havoc for airlines as some 100,000 flights were canceled and stranding millions of passengers. Airlines lost $1.7 billion, the International Air Transport Association said.  Since then ash has periodically forced the short-term closure of parts of airspace in countries across Europe.

British Transport Minister Philip Hammand said on Saturday that from now on five-day -- rather than the previous 18-hour -- ash prediction charts would be made available to airlines and the public on the Met Office forecaster's website.

Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Saturday, 15 May 2010 13:56 UK
Warning of ash flight disruption

Parts of the UK's airspace are at risk of closure from Sunday because of volcanic activity in Iceland, the Department for Transport has said.

Disruption could affect some of the UK's busiest airports in south-east England until Tuesday, it warned.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said passenger safety was the government's top priority.

Ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano caused disruption to thousands of flights during April.

Airspace across Europe was shut down for five days following concerns that ash could turn to molten glass in high temperatures, crippling plane engines.

Scientists and engineers have since revised the safe to fly threshold, but clouds of volcanic ash have continued to drift over Europe, causing airport closures, flight delays and cancellations.

Prediction charts

In the past week, several airports in southern Europe were forced to close and flights were re-routed.

Ministers have agreed on Saturday that five-day ash prediction charts would be made available on the Met Office website.

"Within this timeframe, different parts of UK airspace - including airspace in the South East - are likely to be closed at different times," the Department of Transport said in a statement.

Previous forecasts were only given for the following 18 hours.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the five-day forecasts would ensure "airlines, other transport providers and the public [had] the best possible information".

But he stressed the situation "remained fluid" and the forecasts - based on assumptions about future volcanic activity and prevailing weather conditions - were "always liable to change".

"Nats - the UK's air traffic services provider - will advise of any airspace closures as and when they become necessary and I urge passengers to check with their airlines before taking any action," he added.

Recriminations erupt in ash-fueled aviation crisis
By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press Writer
21 April 2010

AMSTERDAM – Airlines toted up losses topping $2 billion and struggled to get hundreds of thousands of travelers back home Wednesday after a week of crippled air travel, as questions and recriminations erupted over Europe's chaotic response to the volcanic ash cloud.  Civil aviation authorities defended their decisions to ground fleets and close the skies — and later to reopen them — against heated charges by airline chiefs that the decisions were based on flawed data or unsubstantiated fears.

The aviation crisis sparked by a volcanic eruption in Iceland left millions in flightless limbo, created debilitating losses for airlines and other industries and even threatened Europe's economic recovery. An aviation group called the financial fallout worse than the three-day worldwide shutdown after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.  It was a lesson in mankind's dependency on air travel, the vulnerability of a vital industry, and the confusion that can ensue when each nation decides for itself how to handle a problem that crosses borders.

The air space over most of Europe opened Wednesday after the vast, invisible ash-laden cloud dispersed to levels deemed safe. Restrictions remained over parts of Britain, Ireland, France and the Scandinavian countries.  Electronic boards in Europe's biggest hubs — London's Heathrow, Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Germany's airport at Frankfurt — showed about 80 percent of flights on schedule as airlines began filling vacant seats with those who had been stranded for days. But with 102,000 flights scrapped worldwide over the last week, it could take over a week to get everyone home.

In Iceland, the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) remained active Wednesday — throwing magma chunks the size of cars into the air, bubbling lava and producing tremors. But it was not shooting ash and smoke four to six miles (6 to 10 kilometers) into the air like it did previously.

"There is much, much less ash production and the plume is low," said Gudrun Nina Petersen, meteorologist at the Icelandic Met Office, adding that mild winds kept the ash away from crowded air flight corridors.

But scientists at Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology said an initial analysis of samples collected over Zurich last weekend by special weather balloons concluded that safety concerns were warranted and the volcano could be getting more dangerous.  The concentration of particles was "very high" at up to 600 micrograms per cubic meter, according to Professor Thomas Peter.  The composition of the volcanic magma also appeared to be changing into a form that could become more explosive. Peter Ulmer, a professor of petrology, said the magma has been gaining in silicate content.

If it continues, or if the nearby Katla volcano also erupts, "this could lead to the most feared of all eruptions: A Plinian eruption," Ulmer said.

That kind of eruption is named for Pliny the younger, who witnessed the devastating of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. that destroyed Pompeii. Such an event could last for weeks or months, he said.  Civil aviation officials said their decision to reopen terminals where thousands of weary travelers had camped out was based on science, not on the undeniable pressure put on them by the airlines.

"The only priority that we consider is safety. We were trying to assess the safe operating levels for aircraft engines with ash," said Eamonn Brennan, chief executive of Irish Aviation Authority.

"It's important to realize that we've never experienced in Europe something like this before," he told the AP. "We needed the four days of test flights, the empirical data, to put this together and to understand the levels of ash that engines can absorb."

Despite their protests, the timing of some reopenings seemed dictated by airlines' commercial pressures.  British Airways raised the stakes in its showdown with aviation authorities Tuesday by announcing it had more than 20 long-haul planes in the air and wanted to land them in London. Despite being told the air space was firmly shut, radar tracking sites showed several BA planes circling in holding patterns over England late Tuesday before the somewhat surprising announcement that air space was to be reopened.

"We were circling for about two hours," said Carol Betton-Dunn, 37, a civil servant who was on the first flight to land at Heathrow, from Vancouver.

She said passengers were initially told the flight would be going to London, then that it was heading for an unspecified European airport, then that Shannon airport in western Ireland would be their destination.

"It's been exhausting," Betton-Dunn said.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said by Tuesday it had become clear the lockdown was excessive.

"I don't believe it was necessary to impose a blanket ban on all U.K. airspace last Thursday," he said. "My personal belief is that we could have safely continued operating for a period of time."

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines also sent aircraft toward Amsterdam before Dutch air space officially reopened, said Edwin van Zwol, president of the Dutch Pilots Association.  Lufthansa demanded and received a waiver from German authorities that allowed them to bring 15,000 passengers back to Germany on Tuesday, flying at low altitude. Other Germany-based airlines also received waivers, for a total of 800 flights, even though German airspace was not officially opened until Wednesday.

Van Zwol, a veteran Boeing 777 captain, was critical of European authorities for failing to consult with the airlines or pilots.

"They put all the experts on the sidelines," he said. "(Airlines) are used to this. They deal with volcanic situations all over the world on a daily basis, so they are quite capable of making decisions."

The European decision to partially reopen airspace did not come until the fifth day of the crisis, when transport ministers of the affected states met by teleconference. The plan carved up the sky into relative zones of safety where the flight ban remained in place or was lifted according to the concentration of ash.  Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary slammed that slow response.

"It might have made sense to ground flights for a day or two. That's understandable. But there should have been a much faster response by the governments, the transport ministers and the regulators," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

But Tomio Okamura of the Association of Czech Travel Agents said despite huge losses his industry was happier being safe than sorry.

"It would be much bigger a catastrophe for us in case of any passenger plane crash. That would have a fatal, long-term consequences for the industry," Okamura said in Prague.

In Berlin, Giovanni Bisignani, the head of the International Air Transport Association, called the economic fallout "devastating" and urged European governments to compensate airlines for lost revenues like the U.S. government did following the 9/11 terror attacks.  At one stage, he said 29 percent of global aviation and 1.2 million passengers a day were affected by the airspace closures. Airlines were on track to lose $2.2 billion, he said.

Amid the sniping and bickering, tens of thousands of travelers remained stuck and anxious to get home.  Bob and Maureen Hixon from Boston had been in London since Friday but could only get seats out next weekend. So they went to in Heathrow hoping for an earlier flight, concerned about their children and their 93-year-old mother.

"I have never been worried about flying in my life before today," said Hixon, a 55-year-old mortgage broker. "But I'm not thinking about that. I'm just thinking about getting home."

But uncertainty still remained about the safety of the volcanic debris.  The Finnish Air Force said volcanic ash dust was found in the engine of an F-18 Hornet jet but it caused no significant damage. Officials said "contaminants on its inside surfaces" of the fighter-bomber's engine would be further analyzed.

A test flight by the German Aerospace Center found ash over eastern Germany that was comparable in density to a plume of dust above the Saharan desert. The center reported no damage to the airplane.  A French weather service plane also took samples of the air Tuesday and found no volcanic ash problems.  Those results appeared to contradict the potentially dire conclusions by the Swiss scientists.

Still the crisis may jolt the European Union to step up plans to eliminate borders in the sky that have endured unchallenged 50 years after they began melting away on the ground.  The flaws in the system, in which each country maintains sovereignty over its own airspace, "cannot be ignored much longer," said EU spokeswoman Helen Kearns.

The EU has 27 national air traffic control networks, 60 air traffic centers and hundreds of approach centers and towers. The airspace is a jigsaw puzzle of more than 650 sectors.  Anthony Concil, a spokesman for IATA industry group, said the system was "a continuing disaster."

"For decades the industry has been asking for a single European sky. The economic and social costs of the uncoordinated approach to this crisis by Europe is the biggest argument ever" for that," he said.

At the port of Bilbao in northern Spain, more than 2,000 weary Britons packed a ferry Wednesday and headed for England.  The ferry, which normally takes 1,000 people on a 30-hour trip to Portsmouth in southern England, carried around 2,200 people this time and asked strangers to share sleeper cabins.

Sam Gunn, 42, from Birmingham endured two hungry days sleeping at JFK Airport in New York after his flight home to England was canceled. He settled for a flight to Madrid, then caught a long bus up to Bilbao to reach the ferry.

"Oh, I've been traveling all over the world," he said, chuckling.

Italian scientist flies into the belly of the beast to capture Mother Nature's meltdown
New York Post
Last Updated: 11:38 AM, April 18, 2010
Posted: 4:44 AM, April 18, 2010

That ash makes quite a flash.

Intrepid Italian scientist Marco Fulle, 51, snapped photos of lightning, swirling black smoke and spewing lava at Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull Volcano on Friday night from a helicopter hovering only a third of a mile above the fiery black cauldron. The mouth of the volcano is shrouded in clouds, as ash and fire spews out to the southeast in a 30,000-foot-high plume heading toward Europe.

Though the volcano is a 2,000-degree inferno, the temperature outside the copter was a chilly 14 degrees. Adding to the eruptions' ferocity is the volcano's location beneath a glacial ice cap. The molten rock and snow are mixing, leading to explosions of steam.

The lightning comes from static electricity caused by the ash.

Despite the danger, Fulle, who has traveled the world chasing volcanoes, said "it's where I feel most at home."

Fulle arrived Monday and was ready to snap when Eyjafjallajokull started to blow Wednesday. "I've been quite impressed by it so far," he told The Post.

In 1821, the volcano began a two-year eruption. Scientists still don't know how long this current eruption will last, or how much ash will be produced, said Chris Waythomas, head scientist at the US Geological Survey's Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Ash may hover for days over uncertain Europe
By SYLVIA HUI and ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press Writers
17 April 2010

PARIS – The Icelandic volcano that has kept much of Europe land-bound is far from finished spitting out its grit, and offered up new mini-eruptions Saturday that raise concerns about longer-term damage to world air travel and trade.  Facing days to come under the volcano's unpredictable, ashy plume, Europeans are looking at temporary airport layoffs and getting creative with flight patterns to try to weather this extraordinary event.

Modern Europe has never seen such a travel disruption. Air space across a swath from Britain to Ukraine was closed and set to stay that way until Sunday or Monday in some countries, affecting airports from New Zealand to San Francisco. Millions of passengers have had plans foiled or delayed.  Activity in the volcano at the heart of this increased early Saturday, and showed no sign of abating.

"There doesn't seem to be an end in sight," Icelandic geologist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson told The Associated Press on Saturday. "The activity has been quite vigorous overnight, causing the eruption column to grow."

Scientists say that because the volcano is situated below a glacial ice cap, the magma is being cooled quickly, causing explosions and plumes of grit that can be catastrophic to plane engines, depending on prevailing winds.  In Iceland, winds dragged the ashes over new farmland, to the southwest of the glacier, causing farmers to scramble to secure their cattle and board up windows.

With the sky blackened out and the wind driving a fine, sticky dust, dairy farmer Berglind Hilmarsdottir teamed up with neighbors to round her animals and get them to shelter. The ash is toxic — the fluoride causes long-term bone damage that makes teeth fall out and bones break.

"This is bad. There are no words for it," said Hilmarsdottir, whose pastures near the town of Skogar were already covered in a gray paste of ash.

Forecasters say light prevailing winds in Europe — and large amounts of unmelted glacial ice above the volcano — mean that the situation is unlikely to change quickly.

"Currently the U.K. and much of Europe is under the influence of high pressure, which means winds are relatively light and the dispersal of the cloud is slow," said Graeme Leitch, a meteorologist at Britain's National Weather Service. "We don't expect a great deal of change over the next few days."

A Dutch geologist who is in Iceland observing the volcano, Edwin Zanen, described it to Dutch state broadcaster NOS:

"We're at 25 kilometers (16 miles) distance from the crater now. We're looking at a sun-soaked ice shelf, and above it is looming a cloud of ashes of oh, 4 to 5 kilometers (2.5 to 3 miles) high. There are lightening flashes in it. It's a real inferno we're looking at.

"There's absolutely no sign that the thing is calming down. On the contrary, we can see that at this moment it's extraordinarily active," he said.

With the prospect of days under the cloud of ash, pilots and aviation officials sought to dodge the dangerous grit by adjusting altitude levels.  Germany's airspace ban allows for low-level flights to go ahead under so-called visual flight rules, in which pilots don't rely on their instruments.  Lufthansa took advantage of that to fly 10 empty planes to Frankfurt from Munich on Saturday in order to have them in the right place when the restrictions are lifted, airline spokesman Wolfgang Weber said.  The planes flew at about 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) — well below their usual altitude — in close coordination with air traffic control.

KLM is carrying out a test flight from Schiphol to Dusseldorf at 3,000 meters or lower, hoping for approval to carry out more low-altitude flights in Europe if the ash problem continues.

The Swiss looked the other direction — above the ash cloud. The Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation began allowing flights Saturday above Swiss air space as long as the aircraft were at least at 36,000 feet (11,000 meters). It also allowed flights at lower altitudes under visual flight rules, aimed at small, private aircraft.

All air space in Poland — hosting a huge state funeral for late President Lech Kaczynski — remained closed Saturday to flights above the cloud level of 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) because of the ash cloud.  Some low-level flights are being allowed in the south, however, which is how the Polish Air Force will be able to ferry the coffins of Kaczynski and his wife from Warsaw to Krakow aboard a prop-powered military cargo plane early Sunday morning.

Several world leaders, including President Barack Obama, had to abandon plans to attend the funeral because of ash-related disruptions.  European businesses are testing their flexibility to cope with this new crisis.  The aviation industry, already reeling from a punishing period, is facing at least $200 million in losses every day, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Scandinavian airline operator SAS AB said it has given notice of a temporary layoff of up to 2,500 ground service staff in Norway as a result of the flight disruptions. Airline spokeswoman Elisabeth Manzi said it is a precautionary move, and that said eventual temporary layoffs may not affect all 2,500 notified.  Budget airline Norwegian ASA, losing $1.5 million to $1.7 million a day because of the ash-driven closures, is holding meetings with unions Monday to discuss potential temporary layoffs, spokeswoman Asta Braathen said.

"If we are looking at the future, we cannot maintain the cost of all this forever," said Geert Sciot, communications manager of Brussels Airlines, citing such costs as providing buses to passengers meant to fly from Athens or Lisbon to Brussels.

German mail and logistics company Deutsche Post DHL AG rerouted packages that were supposed to be flown via the company's Leipzig, Germany, hub via Italy and other points south, while those already in the areas affected were diverted to trucks and trains, spokesman Stefan Hess said.

"The longer it lasts, the more difficult it gets in principle — but a cloud like this isn't static," he said.

Producers of Italy's milky white, prized buffalo mozzarella, which is highly perishable, pondered their options.

"In the next couple of days we have to decide," said Vito Amendolara, head of the farmers lobby Coldiretti's office in Campania, the region around Naples famed for the cheese. "We cannot sell buffalo milk as it is, because it is too fatty and is meant solely for production of mozzarella. We will either have to throw away the milk or find alternative markets" by heavily promoting it locally.

Around the world, anxious passengers have told stories of missed weddings, business deals and holidays because of the ominous plume. Stranded passengers reported the delays were causing financial hardships. Some had to check out of hotels and sleep in airports.

"It's like a refugee camp," said Rhiannon Thomas, of Birmingham, England, describing the scene at New York's Kennedy Airport.

Her family spent the night at the airport Friday, and may be there for days before they can get a flight home. "At least we got beds," said Thomas' mother, Pat, referring to the hundreds of narrow blue cots brought in to JFK's Terminal 4. "Some people slept on cardboard."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was heading homeward in an armored car along an Italian highway Saturday — continuing a long and circuitous return from the United States.  Merkel was diverted to Lisbon, spent the night in the Portuguese capital, then flew to Rome on Saturday. From there, she and her delegation set off by road toward northern Italy's South Tyrol region for another overnight stay. Late Saturday night, Merkel's government announced she would not be able to make it to Poland for Sunday's state funeral.

Pope Benedict XVI's flight to Malta for a weekend pilgrimage was one of the few to depart Saturday from Rome. Greeting journalists aboard the plane, the pontiff told them he hoped they would have "nice trip without this dark cloud that has arrived on the rest of Europe."

Southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH'-plah-yer-kuh-duhl) volcano began erupting for the second time in a month Wednesday, sending ash several miles (kilometers) into the air.

In Iceland, torrents of water have carried away chunks of ice the size of small houses. More floods from melting waters are expected as long as the volcano keeps erupting — and in 1821, the same volcano managed to erupt for more than a year.

Flight disruptions in Europe get even worse
By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer
16 April 2010

LONDON – Thick drifts of volcanic ash blanketed parts of rural Iceland on Friday as a vast, invisible plume of grit drifted over Europe, emptying the skies of planes and sending hundreds of thousands in search of a hotel room, a train ticket or a rental car.

Polish officials worried that the ash cloud could threaten the arrival of world leaders for Sunday's state funeral for President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria in the southern city of Krakow.

So far, President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among those coming and no one has canceled. Kaczynski's family insisted Friday they wanted the funeral to go forward as planned but there was no denying the ash cloud was moving south and east.

The air traffic agency Eurocontrol said almost two-thirds of Europe's flights were canceled Friday, as air space remained largely closed in Britain and across large chunks of north and central Europe.

"The skies are totally empty over northern Europe," said Brian Flynn, deputy head of Eurocontrol, adding "there will be some significant disruption of European air traffic tomorrow."

The agency said about 16,000 of Europe's usual 28,000 daily flights were canceled Friday — twice as many as were canceled a day earlier. Only about 120 trans-Atlantic flights reached European airports compared to 300 on a normal day, and about 60 flights between Asia and Europe were canceled.

The International Air Transport Association said the volcano was costing the industry at least $200 million a day.

Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH'-plah-yer-kuh-duhl) glacier began erupting for the second time in a month on Wednesday, sending ash several miles (kilometers) into the air. Winds pushed the plume south and east across Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia and into the heart of Europe.

Gray ash settled in drifts near the glacier, swirling in the air and turning day into night. Authorities told people in the area with respiratory problems to stay indoors, and advised everyone to wear masks and protective goggles outside.

In the major cities, travel chaos reigned. Extra trains were put on in Amsterdam and lines to buy train tickets were so long that the rail company handed out free coffee.

Train operator Eurostar said it was carrying almost 50,000 passengers between London, Paris and Brussels. Thalys, a high-speed venture of the French, Belgian and German rail companies, was allowing passengers to buy tickets even if trains were fully booked.

Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 14:33 UK; 13:11 for text
British airspace has been shut down because of a huge volcanic ash cloud from a volcano in Iceland.

Iceland volcano: Why a cloud of ash has grounded flights
By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News

More than 1,000km from the event itself, Iceland's second volcanic eruption in the space of a month has caused flights in the UK to be grounded.

Scientists and aviation authorities are continuing to monitor a plume of volcanic ash that is moving southwards over the UK.

The entirety of UK airspace will be closed from noon on Thursday.

National Air Traffic Services said: "No flights will be permitted in UK controlled airspace other than emergency situations" until 1800 BST at the earliest.

The eruption ejected the plume, which is made up of fine rock particles, up to 11km into the atmosphere.

"This ash cloud is now drifting with the high altitude winds," said Dr David Rothery, a volcano researcher from the UK's Open University.

"The main mass is over Scandinavia, but it is also over the north of Great Britain and is likely to spread south over the whole island by the end of [Thursday]."

The plume is so high that it will neither be visible nor pose a threat to the health of humans on the ground, although Dr Rothery added that we may have a "spectacularly red sunset" on Thursday evening.

The major concern is that the ash could pose a very serious hazard to aircraft engines.

Dr Dougal Jerram, an earth scientist at the University of Durham, UK, explained: "Eruptions which are charged with gas start to froth and expand as they reach the surface.

"This results in explosive eruptions and this fine ash being sent up into the atmosphere.

"If it is ejected high enough, the ash can reach the high winds and be dispersed around the globe, for example, from Iceland to Europe. These high winds are exactly where the aeroplanes cruise."

Emergency developments

Airports operator BAA confirmed that all flights at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick would be suspended from midday.

"Air traffic restrictions have very properly been applied," said Dr Rothery. "If volcanic ash particles are ingested into a jet engine, they accumulate and clog the engines with molten glass."

In 1982, British Airways and Singapore Airways jumbo jets lost all their engines when they flew into an ash cloud over Indonesia.

Reports said that the ash sandblasted the windscreen and clogged the engines, which only restarted when enough of the molten ash solidified and broke off.

A KLM flight had a similar experience in 1989 over Alaska.

Stewart John, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and former president of the Royal Aeronautical Society, explained that the ash can cause severe damage.

"This dust really is nasty stuff," he told BBC News. "It's extremely fine and if it gets into a jet engine, it blocks up all of the ventilation holes that bleed in cooling air.

"Jet engines operate at about 2,000C, and the metals can't take that. The engine will just shut down."

In the case of the 1982 British Airways flight, Dr John explained, when the plane emerged from the cloud, the pilot repeatedly tried and failed to restart the engines.

"They were going down and down, and had just about accepted that they would have to ditch.

"But, at the last minute, one engine started. By repeatedly turning the engine over and having a clean airflow going through, he managed to blow the ash out."

Dr Rothery explained that as a result of those incidents, emergency procedure manuals for pilots were changed.

"Previously, when engines began to fail the standard practice had been to increase power. This just makes the ash problem worse," he said.

"Nowadays, a pilot will throttle back and lose height so as to drop below the ash cloud as soon as possible. The inrush of cold, clean air is usually enough to shatter the glass and unclog the engines.

"Even so, the forward windows may have become so badly abraded by ash that they are useless, and the plane has to land on instruments."

Dr John concluded: "We do not know how long this will last.

"It's like a typhoon - because you can't fly through it, you can't directly monitor it, so we have rely on satellite images and to err on the side of extreme caution."

Volcano erupts in Iceland, hundreds evacuated
By GUDJON HELGASON and PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writers
21 March 2010

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – A volcano erupted near a glacier in southern Iceland, shooting ash and molten lava into the air and forcing the evacuation Sunday of hundreds of people from nearby villages.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, but a state of emergency was declared and scientists feared the eruption could trigger a larger and potentially more dangerous eruption at the Katla volcano.  Saturday's eruption, which occurred just before midnight (2000 EDT, 8 p.m. EDT), came weeks after a series of small earthquakes. Television footage showed lava flows along the fissure.

"This was a rather small and peaceful eruption but we are concerned that it could trigger an eruption at the nearby Katla volcano, a vicious volcano that could cause both local and global damage," said Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland's Institute of Earth Science.

Authorities evacuated 450 people between the farming village of Hvolsvollur and the fishing village of Vik, some 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of the capital, Reykjavik, said Vidir Reynisson of the Icelandic Civil Protection Department.  Evacuation centers were set up near the town of Hella. The most immediate threat was to livestock because of the caustic gases.

"We had to leave all our animals behind," Elin Ragnarsdottir, a 47-year-old farmer, told RUV, Iceland's national broadcaster from an evacuation center. "We got a call and a text message ... and we just went."

Iceland sits on a large volcanic hot spot in the Atlantic's mid-oceanic ridge. Volcanic eruptions, common throughout Iceland's history, are often triggered by seismic activity when the Earth's plates move and when magma from deep underground pushes its way to the surface.  Scientists in Iceland have been monitoring the recent activity using seismometers and global positioning instruments. Like earthquakes, however, it is difficult to predict the exact timing of eruptions.

"The volcano has been inflating since the beginning of the year, both rising and swelling," Einarsson told The Associated Press. "Even though we were seeing increased seismic activity, it could have been months or years before we saw an eruption like this ... we couldn't say that there was an imminent risk for the area."

The population around the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and the glacier that bears the same name is sparse — unlike the area around the Katla volcano, which is also covered by glacial ice and poses a greater danger of floods, according to Einarsson.

"One of the possible scenarios we're looking at is that this small eruption could bring about something bigger. This said, we can't speculate on when that could happen," he said in an interview.

Authorities initially feared the eruption occurred below the 100-square-mile (160 square-kilometer) Eyjafjallajokull glacier and could have triggered floods if the glacial ice melted. But after an aerial survey Sunday they concluded that the eruption struck near the glacier in an area where there was no ice.

"This is the best possible place for an eruption," said Tumi Gudumundsson, a geologist at the University of Iceland.

There hasn't been an eruption near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier since 1821.  The Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration ordered aircraft to stay 120 nautical miles away from the volcano area due to low visibility in some areas.  All domestic flights were canceled until further notice, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service reported, but Reykjavik appeared to be unaffected with clear visibility.  Three Icelandair flights from the U.S. — departing from Seattle, Boston and Orlando, Florida — bound for Keflavik airport in Reykjavik were turned back to Boston, leaving about 500 people waiting, the airline said.

Flights to Stockholm, London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt were scheduled to leave Sunday but a flight to Oslo was canceled and passengers were being rerouted. The airline expected further delays throughout Sunday.

First settled by Vikings in the 9th century, Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice because of its volcanos and glaciers. During the Middle Ages, Icelanders called the Hekla volcano the "Gateway to Hell," believing that souls were dragged below. Hekla is Iceland's most active volcano.  In the mid-1780s, the Laki volcano erupted, prompting scores to die of famine when livestock and crops were destroyed.

Iceland, an island with a population of just 320,000, has been better known recently for its financial troubles.

After a decade of dizzying economic growth that saw Icelandic banks and companies snap up assets around the world, the global financial crisis wreaked political and economic havoc on the island nation. Iceland's banks collapsed within a week in October 2008, its krona currency plummeted and protests toppled the government.  The new left-of-center government has been trying to negotiate a plan to repay $3.5 billion to Britain and $1.8 billion to the Netherlands as compensation for funds that those governments paid to citizens who had accounts with Icesave, an Icelandic Internet bank that failed along with its parent, Landsbanki.

Icelandic voters this month resoundingly rejected a $5.3 billion plan to repay that debt.

Story in full:

Story in full:

Redoubt settles a bit but is building dome...we all know what that can mean, based upon Hollywood versions of this natural act.  Mt. Cleveland so remote no webcams.

Alaska volcano sends ash plume up to 15,000 feet

Associated Press
By Dan Joling Anchorage Daily News
Published: December 30th, 2011 12:27 AM Last Modified: December 30th, 2011 12:28 AM

A volcano in Alaska's Aleutian Islands sent up an ash cloud Thursday that prompted scientists to increase the alert level for commercial aircraft traffic.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory said satellite images at 4:02 a.m. Alaska time showed Cleveland Volcano had spewed ash 15,000 feet into the air in a cloud that moved east-southeast. U.S. Geological Survey scientist-in-charge John Power called it a small explosion.

"It's not expected to cause a disruption to big international air carriers," he said. However, it was significant enough to raise the alert level from yellow, representing elevated unrest, to orange, representing an increased potential of eruption, or an eruption under way with minor ash emissions or no emissions.

Cleveland Mountain is a 5,675-foot foot peak on uninhabited Chuginadak Island about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. The nearest village is Nikolski on another island about 50 miles east. Previous eruptions of Cleveland Volcano were not considered a threat to Nikolski and its 18 permanent residents. Scientists in July noted increased activity in the crater at the summit of the volcano. Satellite images showed lava building and forming a dome-shaped accumulation.

Chris Waythomas of the USGS said in September that lava domes form a lid on a volcano's "plumbing," including the chamber holding the magma. When they grow big enough, lava domes can become unstable and will sometimes collapse. When the magma chamber decompresses it can lead to an explosion as the conduit inside the volcano suddenly becomes unsealed and gasses escape.

Radar images earlier this month showed the dome had cracked and subsided, Power said. The Federal Aviation Administration and the airline industry get concerned for trans-Pacific flights when an ash cloud has the potential to exceed the 20,000-foot threshold, as Cleveland Volcano has done in the past.

Alaska's Redoubt Volcano blew on Dec. 15, 1989, and sent ash 150 miles away into the path of a KLM jet carrying 231 passengers. Its four engines flamed out and the jet dropped more than 2 miles, from 27,900 feet to 13,300 feet, before the crew was able to restart all engines and land the plane safely in Anchorage. Cleveland Volcano's last major eruption was in 2001. It has had bursts of activity nearly every year since then and the ash cloud Thursday was not out of character.

"It's not unexpected for a volcano like Cleveland to do things like this," Power said. "Unfortunately, Cleveland is one of those that is so remote, we have no on-ground monitoring or instrumentation there, so it's hard for us to pinpoint things any more accurately than we can do with satellite imagery."

The event Thursday drew strong interest from air carriers.

"Any time you put an ash cloud up into the atmosphere, the airlines, the air carriers, air freight companies -- it's a major concern," Power said. The observatory is working with the University of Washington to monitor lightning above Cleveland Mountain, which could signal a major ash plume.

"Any time you put up a big ash cloud, you induce a lot of lightning activity," he said. "It's like having a big thunderhead go up."

The cause is linked to the interaction of ash and warm air. "There's a whole lot of hot air and it rises through the atmosphere very quickly," Power said. "All the ash particles rub together and develop electrical charges, and that discharges as lightning.

AIR TRAFFIC: Ups and fedex reroute some flights to outside hubs.
Anchorage Daily News
(04/01/09 18:41:01)

Mount Redoubt continued blowing gas, steam and ash Wednesday as officials worked on plans to forestall risks to the oil tanks at the Drift River terminal, located in the volcano's shadow.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory reported continuing weak volcanic tremors and with occasional small earthquakes taking place on the stratovolcano about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage.

A continuous ash plume reaching about 14,000 feet above sea level was being pushed by easterly winds that shifted in the afternoon. No ashfall alerts were in effect, with most of the fallout taking place near the volcano.

Scientists say the volcano could continue smoldering for days or weeks before settling down. A dome appears to be forming from cooling lava in Redoubt's crater and scientists were continuing to warn explosive activity could continue.

"I would imagine we'll get some further large event," said geophysicist and field engineer Cyrus Read. "I think the likelihood is that we will in the form of a dome collapse."

The volcano has caused some significant snags for air traffic, although Wednesday passenger flights appeared to mostly be moving as scheduled. But some major cargo carriers were redirecting some of their traffic.

FedEx spokeswoman Sally Davenport said the company has cut back work hours in Anchorage but all employees are still receiving their paychecks. FedEx is still bringing cargo planes to Alaska for local shipments but most of the cargo flights to and from Asia that land in Anchorage are being routed through Oakland instead.

UPS has sent some of its Anchorage employees home without pay due to the volcanic unrest but is bringing them back in when there are packages to sort, said spokesman Michael Mangeot. UPS moved most of its international cargo flights to temporary hubs in Portland, Seattle and Honolulu but is still making deliveries to Anchorage.

Concern for the Drift River oil terminal also continued. There are 6 million gallons of oil currently stored in the river's floodplain, and four workers were on site Wednesday clearing up mud and debris, paving the way for larger crews to arrive, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Sara Francis said.

The area got a soaking after a large eruption March 23 launched a mudslide, but a $20 million dike installed at the terminal after Redoubt's last eruption in 1989 has so far held steady in protecting the tanks and their contents from disaster.

A unified command consisting of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Coast Guard and Cook Inlet Pipeline Co. that was established over the weekend to handle the response was still developing plans for getting a tanker to the terminal dock, about a mile offshore, to unload some of the oil, Francis said.

A Tesoro tanker was being eyed for the operation and officials were trying to schedule a window for it to get there, she said.

Redoubt ash falling in Homer; planes grounded throughout Southcentral
Anchorage Daily News
Published: March 26th, 2009 09:06 AM
Last Modified: March 26th, 2009 05:09 PM

Ash from Redoubt volcano is falling across the southern Kenai Peninsula, residents report, and commercial airline traffic throughout Southcentral Alaska has come to a near halt because of airborne ash.

Redoubt erupted twice this morning, including a huge explosion at 9:24 that sent a cloud of ash to 65,000 feet, higher than any since the mountain came to life on Sunday night.  Alaska Airlines announced earlier today that it's canceled all flights in and out of Anchorage for the rest of the day, and other airlines are canceling flights as well.  No ash is expected to fall in Anchorage, but it may reach the upper atmosphere just south of city, Weather Service meteorologist Amy Bedal said.

Ash began falling in Homer shortly before 2 p.m., where the city sent workers home early, said City Manager Walt Wrede. Ash was also reported from Kasilof south to Nanwalek.  A purplish plume blocked the view across Cook Inlet and the smell of sulfur wafted into town, he said. Businesses closed up.  By 3 p.m. it was falling harder, and the Weather Service was predicting the area might receive up to one-eighth inch.

The sky darkened above Nanwalik around 1:30 p.m, said Charlemagne Active, a health aide at the clinic there. As the cloud moved in from the direction of Homer, the air became hazy, and ash dusted the buildings.

"There's not very much,"she said. "It covers the snow, but not completely."

Trace amounts of ash are possible to the north, including Soldotna and Cooper Landing, the Weather Service said.  Higher-level winds above 30,000 feet are expected to push the top of the plume toward the northern edge of the Kenai Peninsula near Turnagain Arm, Bedal said.  But those higher winds will probably be too strong and the ash particles that attain that height are too light to reach the ground, she said.

The Weather Service has advised the Federal Aviation Administration to prohibit flights through a large area east of Redoubt that includes all of the Kenai Peninsula, Prince William Sound and a portion of the Gulf of Alaska.  A major air route from Seattle to Anchorage normally uses that air space, Bedal said.  Anchorage International Airport remains officially open and some flights are still coming and going, said Everts Air Cargo Operations Manager Peter Mejia.

"We currently just launched two airplanes after being on hold all day."

Mejia said the planes are older models that are less susceptible to ash, and don't fly at the same altitudes as jets that other airlines have grounded.  Era Aviation has put all its flights on hold, said vice president Mike LeNorman. The commuter airline canceled flights today from Anchorage to Kodiak, Homer and Bethel and two flights from Anchorage to Kenai.  FedEx also canceled flights out of its Anchorage cargo hub, and re-routed or turned back flights to avoid the city.

"We didn't want any of our planes to get stuck there. We don't have any planes that are on the ground in Anchorage," said spokeswoman Deborah Willig.

Peninsula Airways canceled 17 flights today, the company said. At Elmendorf Air Force Base, training flights have been scaled back and the Air Force sent several aircraft, including four fighter jets, to other air force bases.

"We definitely err on the side of caution because we have billions of dollars of aircraft," said Capt. Candice Adams

Kenai Peninsula Borough schools will remain open, Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said.

"The amounts (of ashfall) that we're being told could be coming don't warrant a school closure," he said.

However, the school district has stockpiled thousands of breathing masks and is prepared to distribute them to every student on the Peninsula if the ash arrives before they leave school, he said.  Dialed back to code orange yesterday, Redoubt first exploded this morning at 8:34, according to the AVO. It sent an ash cloud to at least 30,000 feet above sea level.  Following the 9:24 a.m. explosion, a seismometer positioned on the ground east of the volcano's summit recorded the signal of a large mud flow, called a lahar, AVO geophysicist Stephanie Prejean said.

The Weather Service subsequently issued a flash flood warning for the Drift River, which connects the Drift Glacier on the east slope of Redoubt to Cook Inlet, 27 miles downstream.  An AVO team was scheduled to depart Anchorage this afternoon on a helicopter fly-by of the river and volcano to observe the latest eruption's after-effects.

Unlike earlier this week, the explosions this morning came without any short-term seismic warning, Prejean said.

That wasn't a total surprise, she said, since earlier this week the volcano cleared its throat and is now breathing freely.

"At this point we have a wide-open system, and so probably for most of the rest of the eruption we don't expect to see short-term warnings," Prejean said.

Whether this episode will last as long -- or longer -- than the four-month span of explosions that occurred during Redoubt's most recent eruptive episode in the winter of 1989-1990 isn't clear, she said.

"We just don't know how much magma is down there that needs to get out."


Golden Anniversary of 1964 9.2 earthquake and tsunami in Alaska March 27th...Alaska prone to about California?



Saturday April 25th...make that total killed 1,400 by 2pm...Washington Post;  NYTIMES Sunday, 2,400...Monday 3,800;  past 4000 dead (Courant);  5000 (DAY);

The DAY:
Nepal quake toll tops 5,000 as aid reaches epicenter area

Published April 29. 2015 6:38AM, By KATY DAIGLE, Associated Press

Paslang, Nepal — Aid reached a hilly district near the epicenter of Nepal's earthquake for the first time Wednesday, four days after the quake struck and as the death toll from the disaster passed the 5,000 mark.

But it will still take time for the food and other supplies to reach survivors in remote communities who have been cut off by landslides, said Geoff Pinnock, a World Food Program emergencies officer.

"It doesn't happen overnight," said Pinnock from the village of Majuwa, 20 kilometers (16 miles) downhill from Gorkha town, a staging area for relief efforts to areas worst hit by Saturday's magnitude-7.8 earthquake.

Nearby, five cargo trucks filled with rice, cooking oil and sugar stood on a grassy field fringed with banana and acacia trees beneath the soaring Himalayas, waiting for a helicopter to carry the supplies to remote, quake-hit villages.  Soon, the U.N. food agency was expected to deliver shipments of high-energy food biscuits to areas without enough water for cooking, Pinnock said. The first aid shipments had reached Dhading district, just east of Gorhka, near the epicenter, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu.

Nepalese police said Wednesday the death toll from the quake had reached 4,989. Another 18 were killed on the slopes of Mount Everest, while 61 died in neighboring India, and China's official Xinhua News Agency reported 25 dead in Tibet, putting the total over 5,000.  The disaster also injured more than 10,000, police said, and rendered thousands more homeless. The U.N. says the disaster has affected 8.1 million people — more than a fourth of Nepal's population of 27.8 million — and that 1.4 million needed food assistance.

"Under normal circumstances, a government would have the capacity to respond to maybe 10, or 20, or 30,000 people in need. But if you're looking at 8 million as we are here, you need a bit of time to scale everything up," Pinnock said.

Planes carrying food and other supplies have been steadily arriving at Kathmandu's small airport, but the aid distribution process remains fairly chaotic, with Nepalese officials having difficulty directing the flow of emergency supplies.  About 200 people blocked traffic in the capital Wednesday to protest the slow pace of aid delivery. The protesters faced off with police and there were minor scuffles but no arrests were made.

Police arrested dozens of people on suspicion of looting abandoned homes as well as causing panic by spreading rumors of another big quake. Police official Bigyan Raj Sharma said 27 people were detained for stealing.  But in a sign that life was inching back to normal, banks in Kathmandu opened for a few hours Wednesday and stuffed their ATMs with cash, giving people access to money...

Story in full:

NYTIMES:  More Than 1,200 Killed and Thousands Injured

As a devastating earthquake hit about 50 miles from Katmandu, the capital (NOTE:  Katmando population est. 1.2 million; 1 million in 2011), people in Nepal took to social media to share images of the destruction and information about the dead and the injured. They posted photographs of collapsed buildings and let their friends and family know they were safe.

New York Times correspondents in the region, Ellen Barry and Gardiner Harris, are reporting on the quake, which killed more than 1,200 people (initial number).

Follow along below for live updates on the quake, scenes from Katmandu and elsewhere in Nepal, and rescue and relief efforts underway.

By 12 noon it was 1200...
Massive Nepal quake kills more than 900 across four countries
Tribune wire report April 25, 2015 @10am

A powerful earthquake struck Nepal Saturday, killing at least 906 people across a swath of four countries as the violently shaking earth collapsed houses, leveled centuries-old temples and triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest. It was the worst tremor to hit the poor South Asian nation in over 80 years.

At least 876 people were confirmed dead in Nepal, according to the police. Another 20 were killed in India, six in Tibet and two in Bangladesh. Two Chinese citizens died at the Nepal-China border. The death toll is almost certain to rise, said deputy Inspector General of Police Komal Singh Bam...story in full:

LINK TO STORY HERE...we note that earthquake and tsumami are related happenings if near ocean.

Relatively light (139) loss off life, however, this eathquake and tsunami (s) broke new ground (sorry about the pun) for changes in understanding of Earth's surface..

Some earthquakes start in the ocean, so we only think of them as tsunamis first - but really, the "earthquake" we can see also produces tsunamis, so we tend to think of these as earthquakes...


(ABOVE) ALASKA 9.2, March 27, 1964.  Stories handed down on the 50th, from ADN.  Not "expensive" but pretty awesome.

Did someone say

The San Andreas Fault extends almost the full length of California; 4.5 on the Richter Scale on Whidbey IslandHilltown in Italy.  Basel attempt like California?  N.Y.C. story here...Haiti.  Now Chile, Russia...Italy


Small quake rumbles through South Carolina, Georgia
Associated Press
Article published Feb 15, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- A small earthquake shook South Carolina and Georgia late Friday, shaking homes and rattling residents hundreds of miles away.

The quake happened at 10:23 p.m. EST and had a preliminary magnitude of 4.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's website. It was centered 7 miles west of the town of Edgefield, S.C., and was felt as far west as Atlanta and as far north as Hickory, N.C., each about 150 miles away.

"It's a large quake for that area," said USGS geophysicist Dale Grant. "It was felt all over the place."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported two nearby dams on the Savannah River appeared to be undamaged, but planned a thorough inspection this morning, Edgefield County Emergency Preparedness Director Mike Casey said.

Casey said the quake was centered in a sparsely populated part of Edgefield County where there are a lot more rabbits and deer than people. He was driving around and hadn't found any damage, but he expects some reports of minor damages to come in once the sun rises.

"To get an accurate assessment we're going to need daylight. I could be looking at damage in the dark and not know it. Tomorrow morning, I go out to get my paper and I see the bricks in my house are cracked," Casey said.

Authorities across South Carolina said their 911 centers were inundated with calls of people reporting what they thought were explosions or plane crashes as the quake's low rumble spread across the state.

Reports surfaced on Twitter of a leaking water tower in Augusta, Ga., following the quake, but the tower was damaged by ice from a winter storm earlier this week and not the quake, said Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Tangela McCorkle.

No damages or injuries from the quake itself had been reported, said South Carolina Emergency Management Division spokesman Derrec Becker. The ice storm felled a lot of trees in the area, which could make it more difficult to determine what damage was caused by the quake.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley felt the earthquake at the governor's mansion in Columbia. She asked the Department of Transportation to inspect bridges in the area this morning as a precaution, said her spokesman Doug Mayer.

Tom Clements, a resident of suburban Columbia about 60 miles east of the quake's epicenter, said he felt the walls of his brick house shaking "and they were definitely shaking like what I've experienced before in Latin America" during an earthquake.

Clements said he immediately went outside to see if anyone else had felt it and he found two neighbors who had.

"One thought a tree had fallen" under the weight of ice dumped by the storm, he said.

Earthquakes aren't unheard of in the region. A 4.3-magnitude earthquake happened in Georgia in August 1974 several miles west of Friday's quake. Three others of similar magnitude have been felt in South Carolina in the past 40 years, according to the USGS.

The largest earthquake ever recorded on the East Coast was a 7.3-magnitude quake near Charleston in August 1886 that killed at least 60 people.

Aftershock hits California's Napa Valley
Sun Aug 31, 2014 11:20am EDT

(Reuters) - California's Napa Valley, the site of a strong and damaging earthquake a week ago, was shaken by a small aftershock early on Sunday.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, measuring magnitude 3.2, occurred five miles southwest of Napa. There were no immediate reports of damage.

It was one of many aftershocks that have occurred since Aug. 24 when a magnitude 6.0 quake struck, the biggest to hit California's Bay Area in 25 years, injuring more than 200 people and damaging dozens of buildings.

Grape-harvesting season is getting under way in Napa County, where thousands of people are employed in wine production.


Strong Earthquake Shakes Bay Area in California
AUG. 24, 2014

NAPA, Calif. — A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 hit the San Francisco Bay Area early Sunday morning, causing injuries and damage in Napa and knocking out power to thousands of people across the region.

The temblor struck about 10 miles northwest of American Canyon — six miles south of Napa — around 3:20 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey. It was the most powerful earthquake to hit the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, which collapsed the Bay Bridge. At least four aftershocks were reported Sunday.

Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa treated more than 87 patients in its emergency room on Sunday morning, said a spokeswoman for the hospital, Vanessa DeGier. The injuries were largely limited to cuts and abrasions, Ms. DeGier said. Most patients were released after treatment, but some people were also admitted for more severe injuries — including a hip fracture and a heart attack. One patient, a child said to be in critical condition, was airlifted to a hospital in Santa Rosa.

Four homes were destroyed by a fire at a mobile home park, Napa officials said, and two others were still burning. At at least two buildings downtown were severely damaged. About 50 gas main breaks were reported, along with at least one water main break, Napa officials said. Portions of two highways, one of which buckled about a foot during the earthquake, were closed on Sunday morning, and power remained out to more than 60,000 customers.

Two residents of the mobile home park, Lynda and Bob Castell-Blanch, both 60, said they were jarred awake by a loud thump and roll.

“It was violent,” Mr. Castell-Blanch said. “Things were flying all over the place. There was woman screaming from one of the houses, so loud it was total mayhem.”

The couple said they had enough time to gather their cats and his vintage guitars before evacuating. “That was all we had time for,” Mr. Castell-Blanch said, while they were trying to buy water at a store down the road from the mobile home park.

The shelves at the store, the Ranch Market, had been emptied into the aisles. The smell of wine wafted throughout.

Arik Housley, the store’s owner, estimated at least $100,000 in damage at the two markets he owns in the area. He said that, like many people, he did not carry earthquake insurance because of the high premium.

At a restaurant next door, workers could be seen sweeping up broken glass and spilled wine.

Janet Upton, a resident of Napa in the wine country northeast of San Francisco, said she awoke early Sunday morning to violent shaking and the sound of loud crashing all around her, soon followed by rolling waves.

“The house is just trashed,” said Ms. Upton, who is a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and is married to Scott Upton, the Napa County fire chief.

“My kitchen is a wreck; it’s all down” Ms. Upton said. “The TV, all the stuff on the walls. A huge dresser just barely missed my daughter.”

Buildings across the city were damaged, including the county courthouse, a historic building.

“There’s collapses, fires,” the Napa fire captain, Doug Bridewell, told The Associated Press as he stood in front of large pieces of masonry that broke loose from a turn-of-the-century office building where a fire had just been extinguished. “That’s the worst shaking I’ve ever been in.”

Mr. Bridewell, who said he had to climb over fallen furniture in his own home to check on his family before reporting to duty, said he was starting to see more reports of injuries.

In her neighborhood, Ms. Upton said the chimneys of several homes were knocked off, while the front of another home had sheared off. The entire area smelled strongly of gas, she said. The sound of sirens continued unabated for two hours after the earthquake, she added, but it had since quieted down.

“We helped all neighbors turn their gas off,” Ms. Upton said. “I’m just grateful my family and neighbors are all OK.”

At least two aftershocks shook the area on Sunday morning, though neither was as strong as the initial earthquake, which hit between two major faults at a depth of 6.7 miles below the surface, according to the Geological Survey.

California transportation officials were still examining the region’s bridges for any damage, but they appeared to have survived the earthquake unscathed.

“No abnormalities have been found on any of the bridges at this time,” said Tamie McGowen, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation.

The geological agency said the depth of the earthquake was just less than seven miles, and numerous small aftershocks had occurred in the Napa wine country.

“A quake of that size in a populated area is, of course, widely felt throughout that region,” Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., told The Associated Press. “The 6.0 is a sizable quake for this area. It’s a shallow quake. It’s about 6 miles deep. We received hundreds of reports on our website from people that felt it in the surrounding area.


Strong Earthquake Shakes Bay Area in California

AUG. 24, 2014

SONOMA, Calif. — An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 was reported early Sunday in California’s northern San Francisco Bay Area.

Leslie Gordon of the United States Geological Survey said the tremor struck about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, about 10 miles northwest of American Canyon, which is about six miles southwest of Napa. The agency said it was the largest tremor to shake the Bay Area since the magnitude-6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989.

The agency said there was a “low likelihood for casualties,” but issued an “orange alert” for possible damage, a rating that means “significant damage is likely and the disaster is potentially widespread.”

A 2.6-magnitude aftershock hit about 30 minutes afterward, the agency said. Early reports suggested some damage closest to the quake’s epicenter, but no reports of anything major.

More than 28,000 households were reported without power in Napa, about six miles from the epicenter, as well as in other towns and cities in the region, according to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

The utility said crews had been sent out to assess the damage and restore power, and it estimated that electricity would be restored within several hours.

The California Highway Patrol in the San Francisco Bay Area posted on Twitter that it was “checking over crossings and bridges for obvious signs of structural integrity,” and asked residents to report any signs of problems.

Officials closed a bridge near Vallejo on Highway 37 while inspecting it for possible damage, KCBS radio reported.

5.1 quake rocks LA
By Associated Press
March 29, 2014 | 5:02am

LOS ANGELES — A magnitude-5.1 earthquake centered near Los Angeles caused no major damage but jittered nerves throughout the region as dozens of aftershocks struck into the night.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at about 9:09 p.m. Friday and was centered near Brea in Orange County — about 20 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles — at a depth of about 5 miles. It was felt as far south as San Diego and as far north as Ventura County, according to citizen responses collected online by the USGS.

Broken glass, gas leaks, water main breaks and a rockslide were reported near the epicenter, according to Twitter updates from local authorities.

Eyewitness photos and videos show bottles and packages strewn on store floors. Southern California Edison reported power outages to about 2,000 customers following the quake.

More than two dozen aftershocks ranging from magnitudes 2 to 3.6 were recorded, according to the USGS. Earlier in the evening, two foreshocks registering at magnitude-3.6 and magnitude-2.1 hit nearby in the city of La Habra.

Public safety officials said crews were inspecting bridges, dams, rail tracks and other infrastructure systems for signs of damage. The Brea police department said the rock slide in the Carbon Canyon area caused a car to overturn, and the people inside the car sustained minor injuries.

Callers to KNX-AM reported seeing a brick wall collapse, water sloshing in a swimming pool and wires and trees swaying back and forth. One caller said he was in a movie theater lobby in Brea when the quake struck.

“A lot of the glass in the place shook like crazy,” he said. “It started like a roll and then it started shaking like crazy. Everybody ran outside, hugging each other in the streets.”

A helicopter news reporter from KNBC-TV reported from above that rides at Disneyland in Anaheim — several miles from the epicenter — were stopped as a precaution.

Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully was on the air calling the Angels-Dodgers exhibition game in the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium.

“A little tremor here in the ballpark. I’m not sure if the folks felt it, but we certainly felt it here in press box row,” Scully said. “A tremor and only that, thank goodness.”

Tom Connolly, a Boeing employee who lives in La Mirada, the next town over from La Habra, said the magnitude-5.1 quake lasted about 30 seconds.

“We felt a really good jolt. It was a long rumble and it just didn’t feel like it would end,” he told The Associated Press by phone. “Right in the beginning it shook really hard, so it was a little unnerving. People got quiet and started bracing themselves by holding on to each other. It was a little scary.”

Friday’s quake hit a week after a pre-dawn magnitude-4.4 quake centered in the San Fernando Valley rattled a swath of Southern California. That jolt shook buildings and rattled nerves, but did not cause significant damage.

Southern California has not experienced a devastating earthquake since the 1994 magnitude-6.7 Northridge quake killed several dozen people and caused $25 billion in damage.

Preliminary data suggest Friday night’s 5.1 magnitude earthquake occurred near the Puente Hills thrust fault, which stretches from the San Gabriel Valley to downtown Los Angeles and caused the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said.

“It’s a place where we’ve had a lot of earthquakes in the past,” she said.

The 5.9 Whittier Narrows quake killed eight people and caused $360 million in damage.

Minor Earthquake Shakes Western Los Angeles Area
January 3, 2014

LOS ANGELES — A minor earthquake has shaken western areas of Los Angeles and neighboring communities.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude-3.1 tremor occurred at 11:48 a.m. Friday.

The quake was centered 1 mile northwest of Marina del Rey at a depth of 6 miles.

Residents reporting on the USGS community response Internet page characterize the intensity as weak to light.

Another story about it here:
Possible earthquake reported in Plainfield
Published February 24. 2015 10:27AM
Updated February 24. 2015 10:29AM

Plainfield — Police have received numerous phone calls this morning reporting a possible earthquake.

The rumblings come more than a month after the town experienced a spate of earthquakes, the strongest of which peaked at a magnitude of 3.3. Since Jan. 8, the town had 11 confirmed earthquakes.

There was no known cause for those earthquakes, which seem to happen during the morning.  Police said today they started to receive phone calls at about 9:30 a.m.

The Weston Observatory at Boston College, which monitors earthquakes in New England, has yet to confirm the earthquake.

Last month, observatory scientists installed four portable seismographs at undisclosed locations in and around Plainfield, including one near the epicenter of the strongest quake off Plainview Drive, in the Wauragen section in the town’s northwest corner.

Earthquakes Caused Explosive Sounds In CT
The Hartford Courant
8:20 AM EST, December 3, 2013

STONINGTON — The booms that shook the southeastern part of the state last week were earthquakes.

A 2.1-magnitude earthquake was recorded at 9:04 a.m. Friday, three kilometers east of the Conning Towers at Nautilus Park in Groton, said Jana Pursley, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

A second, 2.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded at 9:42 a.m. Friday, about a kilometer northeast of Ledyard Center, she said.  The low-magnitude earthquakes caused no injuries. There were no reports of damage.

"Yep … it was an earthquake," First Selectman Ed Haberek said in a Facebook post Monday.

He included a record of the seismic activity on his Facebook wall. The depiction is from the Weston Observatory at Boston College, he said, which contacted him Monday.

"Small earthquakes at a very shallow depth are commonly heard and reported as sounding like explosions," he wrote.

The explosive sounds startled area residents, including people in Old Mystic section of Stonington. Police and firefighters responded and searched for signs of an explosion but found none.  Residents reported that their houses shook from the booms.

"People are out looking at their chimneys," said Nancy Peta of Main Street said Friday. "It's very mysterious."

She said the booming sounds started about 9:15 a.m. The first was a deep, explosive sound that sounded as though a propane tank blew up, she said. But there was no smoke, she said.  The second boom was not as loud, but the third was the worst, she said.

"It was physical. You could feel it through your body," she said.

She called 911 for the second time after that the third boom, she said.

FOX CT Meteorologist Joe Furey contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant

Earthquake shakes Anchorage area; preliminary magnitude of 4.2
Anchorage Daily News /
Published: September 10, 2013 Updated 9 minutes ago

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.0 shook the Anchorage and Eagle River areas just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The quake, at 5:02 p.m., was centered 15 miles northeast of Anchorage at a depth of 18 miles, according to the Alaska Earthquake Information Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Magnitude 4.1 Quake Jolts Alaska's Largest City
September 10, 2013

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A light earthquake in Alaska has jolted the state's largest city.

The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center reports that the quake has a preliminary magnitude of 4.1.

The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says the temblor was felt widely in the greater Anchorage area, but there are no immediate reports of damage.

The quake also was felt in the town of Palmer to the north.

The quake occurred at 5:03 p.m. Tuesday and was centered 15 miles northeast of Anchorage, at a depth of 20 miles.

Tsunami warning center geophysicist Guy Urban says no tsunami warning will be issued.

California rumbling:

Progress Stalls in California on Earthquake Warnings
March 20, 2013

PASADENA, Calif. — Scientists at the Caltech Seismology Laboratory were at their computers last week when a warning popped up on the screen: “Earthquake, earthquake!” The initial magnitude of the quake, 100 miles away, was 5.2, the alert said, and a countdown clock warned that mild shaking would reach here in 40 seconds.

“Since I did not expect any damage, I did not dive under the desk,” said Kate Hutton, a staff seismologist. Instead, she sat and waited to feel the rumble beneath her laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, which arrived precisely as predicted.

Ms. Hutton was enjoying, as it were, the benefits of an ambitious if unfinished earthquake alert system for California, intended to one day give as much as 60 seconds’ warning of an approaching quake — to hospitals, emergency response workers and anyone near a cellphone or computer — in an attempt to reduce the casualties and the damage that officials have long feared were as inevitable as another huge California earthquake.

But the episode, set off by what proved to be a harmless earthquake in the desert on March 11, instead provided a disquieting reminder of how far California lags behind other earthquake-prone places — notably Japan and Mexico — in completing an effective alert system that is clearly within technological and financial reach. Even as others surge ahead, the network in California — which would be the first in the nation — is a work in progress, a beta system with patchwork software sending alerts to just 100 geologists and selected emergency workers.

Last month, state lawmakers introduced legislation calling for an expedited program to raise the $80 million needed to complete the program, but acknowledged they did not know where the money might come from.

The delay here is, in one sense, testimony to human nature. It has been 19 years since the last significant quake rolled through California — the magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Northridge in a corner of the San Fernando Valley in 1994 — and memories of its damage and psychological trauma (some people moved away) have softened with the passage of time.

“We are in a long period of what I call seismic peace in California,” said Thomas H. Heaton, the director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory at Caltech. “But you can go for a long period when things are calm, and then instantly things are transformed into chaos. When you are in peacetime, it’s hard to get people’s attention and remind them what a big problem it is.”

Alex Padilla, a Democratic state senator who studied mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is sponsoring the earthquake alert bill, said the central hurdle was finding a source for the money that university scientists and their partners at the United States Geological Survey say is needed to finish the project. California has been struggling with a financial retrenchment, the federal government is cutting back spending, and private industry is wary of putting so much money into what many people argue is a public responsibility.

“I haven’t come across anybody who thinks we shouldn’t do it,” Mr. Padilla said. “The only question I get is ‘Where is the money going to come from?’”

“I don’t think it’s a huge amount of money, particularly when compared to the billions of dollars in damage that we associate with every major earthquake,” Mr. Padilla said, adding, “I really don’t think any state official wants to answer the question ‘Why didn’t we?’ after the Big One hits and we haven’t deployed the system.”

A fully operational system would use a network of sensors — 300 are in place now, but hundreds more are needed — to detect the first signs of a rupture, using the data to project the severity and breadth of the quake, the area most likely to be damaged and the number of seconds until the shaking begins. As demonstrated in Japan, even a 30-second notice was enough to activate computerized programs to slow commuter trains so they did not go off their tracks, stop elevators so passengers were not stranded between floors, flash highway warning signs instructing motorists to slow down and avoid overpasses, and open doors at fire stations so they would not be stuck shut should power be lost.

The warning would go out to home computers and personal cellphones, giving surgeons a moment to withdraw scalpels, workers at Disneyland time to shut down Space Mountain, home cooks an opportunity to turn off the gas and everyone a moment to, as Ms. Hutton at Caltech put it, dive under a desk.

“If you are cooking, you can step away from the boiling water,” said Maren Boese, a research fellow at Caltech, as she ran through a demonstration of the alert system. She also said it would help people psychologically, decreasing the surprise that can freeze people in confusion and fear when the ground starts moving, or lead to panicked and dangerous reactions, like running outside a building.

“I think you get mentally ready,” she said. “We think it will reduce panic.”

The network would cover much of the length of California, much like the network of fault lines here, though the geology of Southern California is particularly suited to this kind of early warning system. Much of the San Andreas Fault lies far enough away to permit something of a warning. (That said, many faults run right through the middle of Los Angeles, in which case, the system would be essentially useless.)

The existing network needs major investments to bring it to the level of Japan and Mexico: an expansion of the sensor stations and the development of software permitting the warnings to be distributed to the public.

“In order to turn the system into a system that can be used across California, it has to be turned into professional-grade software,” Mr. Heaton said. “It is just completely inappropriate to have software that has bugs and that was not written by software engineers.”

Mexico developed its alert system after the Mexico City earthquake of 1985, and Japan after the Kobe earthquake of 1995.

“That seems to be the pattern,” said Douglas D. Given, the early earthquake warning project coordinator with the federal Geological Survey. “It is our hope that we can deploy an early warning system before we have a killer earthquake.”

Strong earthquake shakes parts of Alaska, Canada
Anchorage Daily News
By Associated Press
Updated: 10:49 a.m. on Saturday, January 5, 2013

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A powerful earthquake sparked a tsunami warning for hundreds of miles of Alaskan and Canadian coastline, but the alert was canceled when no damaging waves were generated.  The magnitude 7.5 quake and tsunami warning that followed caused concern in some coastal communities, with alarms sounding and people rushing to higher ground for safety.  But the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center later said the waves were too small to pose a threat, reaching just six inches above normal sea level in places such as Sitka and Port Alexander.

“Initially, in the first 15 to 20 minutes, there might have been a bit of panic,” Sitka Police Chief Sheldon Schmitt told The Associated Press in a phone interview. But he said things calmed down as the town waited for the all clear.  The temblor struck at midnight Friday (1 a.m. PST Saturday) and was centered about 60 miles west of Craig, Alaska, the U.S. Geological Survey said.  Seismologist Jana Pursley of the USGS said the quake was followed by six aftershocks, the strongest of which registered a 5.1 and came nearly four hours after the initial quake.

“Houses shook; mine had things tossed from (the) wall,” Craig Police Chief Robert Ely said. But he added that there were “no reports of any injuries, no wave, no tidal movement seen.”

The tsunami warning was eventually expanded to include coastal areas from Cape Fairweather, Alaska, to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, Canada — an area extending more than 700 miles.  The center had warned that “significant widespread inundation of land is expected,” adding that dangerous coastal flooding was possible.  In its cancellation statement, the center said that some areas were seeing just small sea level changes.

“A tsunami was generated during this event but no longer poses a threat,” the center said.

The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the quake was widely felt but it received no reports of any damage.

“It was the most intense earthquake I’ve felt in my 10 years here. I’m pretty sure there was stuff falling off of shelves,” Chief Schmitt said. “There is no report of any wave activity here.”

He said that an evacuation sirens and announcements came shortly after the quake, prompting the temporary rush to higher ground.  Some people in Craig also moved to safer territory.

"Several citizens elected on their own to move to higher ground. Several locations in Craig were set up for staging (and) shelter," said Chief Ely, adding that "no evacuation was ordered."

In addition to the warning, a tsunami advisory was briefly in effect for some Alaska coastal areas to the north of the warning zone, as well as to the south of the zone, from the Washington state border to the northern tip of Vancouver Island.  A tsunami warning means an area is likely to be hit by a wave, while an advisory means there may be strong currents, but that widespread inundation is not expected to occur.


Earthquake 9.0 on the Richter Scale;  nuclear plants in Japan damaged, and tsunami @30 feet high - looks just like the artist painted it - one artist's version of the classic tsunami!

2012:  Eastern hemisphere immediately below;  Indonesia

Modern pre-fab (?) building shows earthquake damage in Coasta Rica...
A wall at the University of Costa Rica's school of electrical engineering is damaged after an earthquake in San Jose, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. A powerful, magnitude-7.6 earthquake shook Costa Rica and a wide swath of Central America on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Thomas Dooley) Photo: Thomas Dooley, Associated Press / SF

Office workers fled buildings as far away as Mexico City

7 November 2012 Last updated at 14:27 ET

Strong earthquake off Guatemala

A 7.4-magnitude earthquake has struck off Guatemala's Pacific coast, reportedly killing at least eight.  Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina declared a national alert and advised people in affected areas to evacuate tall buildings as a precaution.  Officials said roads had been buried in landslides, and it would take 24 hours to fully restore links to the region.

Frightened people fled from offices and homes around the region, as buildings shook from Mexico City to San Salvador.  Quake officials said the tremor hit at about 10:35 local time (1635 GMT) about 23km (15 miles) from the coastal town of Champerico.

Firefighters said a school had collapsed in San Marcos region, near the border with Mexico.

The firefighters later said at least eight people had been killed, though it was not clear if the deaths were related to the school collapse.  Secretary Vanessa Castillo, who was moved from her Guatemala City office, told Reuters news agency: "It was really big, I felt quite nauseous."

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement there was no threat of a destructive widespread tsunami.  But it added: "Earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a hundred kilometres of the earthquake epicentre."

The region is often hit by quakes, which have periodically caused huge damage and many deaths.

The star on this map from the United States Geological Survey website shows the epicenter of the quake, about four miles north-northeast of Waterboro, Maine, and 50 miles east-northeast of Concord, N.H.    
An earthquake that struck western Maine on Tuesday night was felt throughout New Hamsphire, but no major damage was reported.

Earthquake casualty? Cracks force closure of Epping's historic recreation building
By JASON SCHREIBER, Union Leader Correspondent
October 23. 2012 12:39PM

EPPING — A week after a 4.0 magnitude earthquake centered in southwestern Maine shook buildings around New Hampshire, the town has shut down a 129-year-old building that houses the recreation department after numerous cracks were discovered.

Town officials haven't confirmed that the damage to Watson Academy is from the earthquake, but they said it appears the building has shifted and may be unsafe.

“We don't know what we're dealing with,” town administrator Gregory Dodge said Tuesday as officials toured the building while awaiting the arrival of structural engineers to determine the extent of the damage and whether the building is safe to occupy.

Deputy Fire Chief Bruce Chapman issued an order Monday immediately closing the building at 17 Academy St., forcing the recreation department to temporarily move children in its after-school program to the cafeteria in the middle school located behind Watson Academy.

The damage wasn't noticed immediately after the earthquake, which struck at 7:12 p.m. on Oct. 16. The quake was centered near Hollis Center, Maine, and was felt throughout New England as it rattled many buildings and nerves for about 10 seconds. No major structural damage was reported.

Recreation director Nicole Bizzaro said she noticed a few cracks here and there in the building, but it was on Saturday when she discovered that a self-closing door was no longer shutting.  Dodge visited Watson Academy Monday with a worker who had installed restored windows in the building and noticed the cracks around doors and in corners and other problems, including large splits in wooden support beams in the basement and a second floor that appears to slope downward more than in the past.

While some cracks have existed for years as the building is old and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, town officials said there are obvious fresh cracks.  A fire investigator from the state Fire Marshal's Office was notified along with a fire protection and safety engineer.

“We will not allow anybody in the building until we know it's safe,” said Selectman Karen Falcone, board chairman.

The temporary closure will affect not only recreation activities but also nonprofit organizations that rent space in the building.

USGS reports 4.0 earthquake centered in Maine
Union Leader News
By Timothy Buckland & Jason Schreiber
Oct. 16, 2012

An earthquake that struck western Maine on Tuesday night was felt throughout New Hampshire, but no major damage was reported.  The magnitude 4.0 earthquake (initial reports had it as a 4.5, and then a 4.6) shook New England at 7:12 p.m. Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.  New Hampshire's 911 system received about 1,000 calls in the hour after the quake, said Jim Van Dongen, spokesman for the state's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"People were shook up; literally and figuratively," he said. "But there were no reports of damage."

Van Dongen said the calls to 911 dropped off after that first hour. The state's Emergency Operations Center opened Tuesday, but no injuries were reported because of the earthquake and no power outages were reported, Van Dongen said.  The quake's epicenter was located about four miles north-northeast of Waterboro, Maine, and 50 miles east-northeast of Concord, N.H., according to the USGS.

"My whole house shook like the dickens," said Bobby McLaughlin of Manchester, N.H. "I was sitting on my couch and darn near fell off."

"We had stuff in the house shaking, pencils in jars going, wine bottles shaking. The house is fine, but this is like — I don't want to live in Southern California," said John Potucek of Derry, N.H.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

According to the USGS, earthquakes of Tuesday's magnitude can be felt over a large region.

"East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast," according to the USGS website.

The quake rocked the 83-year-old Kingston Town Hall as the planning board was listening to plans for a proposed firing range on Route 125.  The entire building and windows shook and people could feel the floor rumbling.

"We're having an earthquake!" Chairman Rich Wilson announced as he and others on the board and in the audience looked around the building and Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr., who was sitting in the room, ran out to talk on his cell phone as calls began coming in.

Chuck Raz, president of Signs Now in Pelham, was standing outside the meeting room when the building began to move.

"First we thought it sounded like some heavy truck was going by, but then it seemed bigger than that. Then we thought a train was going by, but there's no train. Then we said, 'Earthquake.' We saw the doors rattling."

Ben Barr of Gilmanton also felt the quake while standing in the hallway outside the meeting room.

"It almost seemed like the wind was hitting the door and it started to get worse and worse," Barr said.

The quake was also felt during Tuesday's Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting in Manchester, N.H.

"We needed to shake things up," Alderman Phil Greazzo quipped.

Maine earthquake felt in Connecticut
Staff and wire reports
Updated 8:32 a.m., Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Read more:
A Tuesday evening earthquake in southern Maine was felt in parts of Connecticut and around New England.

The U.S. Geological Survey at first estimated the quake as a 4.6 magnitude, but later downgraded that to 4.0. It hit at about 7:12 p.m. The epicenter, about 3 miles west of Hollis Center, Maine, is about 4 miles deep, about about 20 miles west of Portland.

Residents in the Danbury area, including Bethel and Brookfield, and other parts of Fairfield County, including Monroe, reported feeling the quake, according to the USGS website. There were scattered reports of people feeling light shaking around the state.

The quake was also felt in Vermont, New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. According to the USGS, earthquakes in New England are felt over 10 times the area than that of a similar quake occurring west of the Rockies.

No damage or injuries were immediately reported.

Earthquakes are unusual in New England but they're not unheard of. In 2006, there was a series of earthquakes around Maine's Acadia National Park, including one with a magnitude of 4.2 that caused boulders to fall from ledges onto Acadia National Park's loop road. One of the park's trails was closed for three years because of damage from the quake.

The strongest earthquake recorded in Maine occurred in 1904 in the Eastport area, near the state's eastern border with Canada, according the Weston Observatory at Boston College. With a magnitude estimated at 5.7 to 5.9, it damaged chimneys and brick walls and could be felt in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

East Coast quakes, when they do occur, can be felt over a wide area. This is because the rocky terrain can efficiently transmit the shock wave.

A quake of magnitude 5.8 on Aug. 23, 2011, was centered in Virginia and felt all along the coast, including in New York, New Haven, New London, Bridgeport, Stamford and Boston.

This quake occurred in the geological region known as the Central Maine Basin; its rocks are mostly between 390 and 475 million years old, and they are mostly metamorphic. Geologists say that unlike some of the well-known faults in California, the faults in New England aren't as thoroughly studied because they slip so infrequently.

About 10 miles away in Waterboro, about 20 customers and staff at Waterboro House of Pizza ran outside when they heard a loud bang and the building shook.

"It was loudest bang you ever heard in your life. We actually thought it was an explosion of some type," said owner Jessica Hill. "The back door and door to the basement blew open."

In the mid-1700s, quakes damaged buildings in Boston 28 times. The largest known New England earthquake occurred in 1638 in Vermont or New Hampshire, with a magnitude of about 6.5.

In nearby Saco, Sue Hadiaris said, "The whole house shook. It felt like a train was coming right through the house. It was very unnerving because you could feel the floor shaking. There was a queasy feeling."

Afterward, Hadiaris called her 15-year-old niece in Falmouth to make sure she was safe. "She said, `We can cross that off our bucket list. We've lived through an earthquake,'" Hadiaris said.

The Seabrook Station nuclear plant, about 63 miles away in New Hampshire, declared an unusual event -- the lowest of four emergency classifications, but said it was not affected. The plant has been offline for refueling.

"There has been no impact at all to the plant from the earthquake and our refueling maintenance activities have not been affected," said Alan Griffith, spokesman for Next EnergyEra Seabrook Station.

Jim Van Dongen, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Safety said New Hampshire 911 got about 1,000 calls in the first hour after the quake, but they later dropped off. He said no major damage was reported.

Brief, but noticeable shaking was felt in downtown Boston and the surrounding area.

Strong Earthquake Hits Off El Salvador Coast
August 27, 2012

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — A strong magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck off the coast of El Salvador followed an hour later by a magnitude-5.4 aftershock, authorities said early Monday. There were no immediate reports of damages or injuries.

A tsunami warning was put into effect for Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama and Mexico after the quake struck at 10:37 p.m. Sunday. The warning was later rescinded.

David Walsh, an oceanographer with the Pacific Tsunami Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, said a minor, 10-centimeter (3.94-inche) tsunami was registered off Acajutla, El Salvador.

The quake was located 86 miles (138 kilometers) south-southwest of San Miguel, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on its web site. The temblor took place at a depth of 32.9 miles (53 kilometers). The second quake registered about an hour later in the same area at a depth of 35.9 miles (57.8 km).

Alfonso Lara, a technician with El Salvador's Civil Protection agency said authorities were alerted to the threat of a tsunami. "We are doing a general monitoring of the entire coast through our technicians and representatives," he said.

On Sunday, dozens of small to moderate earthquakes struck southeastern California, knocking trailer homes off their foundations and shattering windows in a small farming town east of San Diego. The largest quake registered at a magnitude 5.5 and was centered about three miles (five kilometers) northwest of the town of Brawley, according to the USGS. Another quake about an hour and a half earlier registered at magnitude 5.3. No injuries were reported.

Magnitude 5.6 Quake Hits Off Coast of Washington State: USGS

August 19, 2012

(Reuters) - A magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck off the coast of the West Coast state of Washington on Sunday, the United States Geological Survey said.

The depth was reported at 6.3 miles and the quake was located 190 miles west of Neah Bay, the USGS said. There was no immediate statement from the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center based in Hawaii on the quake.

Earthquake Strikes Western Mexico

December 11, 2011

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico’s western Guerrero State on Saturday night, shaking buildings and causing panic in the nation’s capital and in the Pacific resort of Acapulco. Officials said at least three people died, but there were no reports of widespread damage.

The U.S. Geological Service initially estimated the quake magnitude at 6.8, but downgraded it to 6.7 and then 6.5. A quake of that magnitude is capable of causing severe damage, although the depth of this one lessened its impact.

The geological service said the quake occurred at a depth of 40.3 miles. It was centered about 26 miles southwest of Iguala in Guerrero and 103 miles southwest of Mexico City.

Mexico’s Interior Department said the quake was felt in parts of nine states.

Humberto Calvo, undersecretary of Guerrero’s Civil Protection agency, said three deaths had been reported in the state. He said one man was killed when a house’s roof collapsed in Iguala; a second died in the small town of Ixcateopan, and the driver of a cargo truck was killed by rocks that fell on the vehicle driving on the toll highway linking Acapulco with Mexico City.

High-rises swayed in the center of Mexico City for more than a minute, and shoppers were temporarily herded out of some shopping centers until the danger passed.

USGS: 10 aftershocks following 5.6 quake in Okla.
November 6, 2011

SPARKS, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma residents more accustomed to tornadoes than earthquakes have been shaken by weekend temblors that cracked buildings, buckled a highway and rattled nerves. One quake late Saturday was the state's strongest ever and jolted a college football stadium 50 miles away.

It was followed by 10 aftershocks by midmorning Sunday. But although homes and other buildings cracked and suffered minor damage, there were no reports of severe injuries or major devastation.

Saturday night's earthquake jolted Oklahoma State University's stadium shortly after the No. 3 Cowboys defeated No. 17 Kansas State.

"That shook up the place, had a lot of people nervous," Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon said. "Yeah, it was pretty strong."

The magnitude 5.6 earthquake was Oklahoma's strongest on record, said Jessica Turner, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Centered near Sparks, 44 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, it could be felt throughout the state and in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, northern Texas and some parts of Illinois and Wisconsin. It followed a magnitude 4.7 quake early Saturday that was felt from Texas to Missouri.

The aftershocks included two that were magnitude 4.0, one about 4 a.m. Sunday and one about 9 a.m., USGS said. The smallest aftershock it recorded was magnitude 2.7. USGS seismologist Paul Earle in Golden, Colo., said the aftershocks will likely continue for several days and could continue for months.

Oklahoma typically has about 50 earthquakes a year, and 57 tornadoes, but a burst of quakes east of Oklahoma City has contributed to a sharp increase. Researchers said 1,047 quakes shook Oklahoma last year, prompting them to install seismographs in the area. The reason for the increase isn't known, and Turner said there was no immediate explanation for the weekend spurt in seismic activity.

Several homeowners and businesses reported cracked walls, fallen knickknacks and other minor damage. Brad Collins, the spokesman for St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, said one of the four towers on its "castle-looking" administration building had collapsed and the other three towers were damaged. He estimated the towers were about 25 feet tall.

"We definitely felt it," Collins said. "I was at home, getting ready for bed and it felt like the house was going to collapse. I tried to get back to my kids' room and it was tough to keep my balance, I could hardly walk."

Jesse Richards, 50, of Sparks, said his wife ran outside when the shaking started because she thought their home was going to collapse. One of her cookie jars fell on the floor and shattered, and pictures hanging in their living room were knocked askew. He estimated the big earthquake lasted for 45 seconds to a minute.

"We've been here 18 years, and it's getting to be a regular occurrence," Richards said. But, he added, "I hope I never get used to them."

An emergency manager in Lincoln County near the epicenter said U.S. 62, a two-lane highway that meanders through rolling landscape between Oklahoma City and the Arkansas state line, crumpled in places when the stronger quake struck Saturday night. Other reports Sunday were sketchy and mentioned cracks in some buildings and a chimney toppled.

"Earthquake damage in Oklahoma. That's an anomaly right there," Todd McKinsey of Moore told The Oklahoman newspaper after the magnitude 5.6 earthquake centered 50 miles away left him with cracked drywall. Most earthquakes that have hit the region have been much smaller.

The crowd of nearly 59,000 was still leaving Oklahoma State's Boone Pickens Stadium when the earthquake hit, and players were in the locker rooms beneath the stands. The shaking seemed to last the better part of a minute, rippling upward to the stadium press box.

"Everybody was looking around, and no one had any idea," Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden said. "We thought the people above us were doing something. I've never felt one, so that was a first."

A few hours before dawn Sunday, the latest quake set nerves on edge anew.

Jessie Plumb, a registered nurse at Prague Community Hospital, said she and other staffers felt the 4.0 magnitude quake while on the second floor of the building.

"It kind of gave a little bit of a shake, a little bit of rock 'n roll," she said by telephone. "I would say it was 20 or 25 seconds."

Plumb said she was anxious because of the number of earthquakes in so short a span and the fact that they were so strong.

Saturday's late-night quake was slightly less in intensity than the one that rattled the East Coast on Aug. 23. That 5.8 magnitude earthquake was centered in Virginia and felt from Georgia to Canada. No major damage was reported, although cracks appeared in the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral suffered costly damage to elaborately sculpted stonework, and a number of federal buildings were evacuated.

Oklahoma has had big earthquakes before. USGS records show a 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck El Reno, just west of Oklahoma City, in 1952 and, before Oklahoma became a state in 1907, a quake of similar magnitude 5.5 struck in northeastern Indian Territory in 1882.

Turner said an active spate of earthquakes started in the region in February 2010 and the latest activity appears to be part of that trend. But experts are still puzzling out why the latest quakes have been concentrated in such a small geographic area around Sparks, she said.

At the right, could be a scene from "Live Free or Die Hard" as perpetrators hack Internet emergency communications, transit, power grid...

Quake rocks Washington area, felt on East Coast
Aug. 23, 2011@2:30pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — A 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia forced evacuations of all the monuments in Washington and rattled nerves from the southern state of Georgia to Martha's Vineyard, the Massachusetts island in the northeast where President Barack Obama is vacationing. No injuries were immediately reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was half a mile (800 meters) deep and centered about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Richmond, the state capital of Virginia. Shaking was felt at the White House and all over the East Coast, as far south as Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Parts of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol were evacuated.

Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in the same county as the epicenter were automatically taken off line by safety systems around the time of the earthquake, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The power plant is being from four emergency diesel generators, which are supplying power for critical safety equipment. Hannah said the agency was not immediately aware of any damage at nuclear power plants in the Southeast.

Obama and many of the nation's leaders were out of town on August vacation when the quake struck at 1:51 p.m. EDT (1751 GMT). The shaking was felt on the Martha's Vineyard golf course as Obama was just starting a round.

At the Pentagon in northern Virginia, a low rumbling built and built to the point that the building was shaking. People ran into the corridors of the government's biggest building and as the shaking continued there were shouts of "Evacuate! Evacuate!"

The U.S. Park Service evacuated and closed all National Mall monuments and memorials. At Reagan National Airport outside Washington, ceiling tiles fell during a few seconds of shaking. Authorities announced it was an earthquake and all flights were put on hold.

In New York, the 26-story federal courthouse in lower Manhattan began swaying and hundreds of people were seen leaving the building. Court officers were not letting people back in.

The quake came a day after an earthquake in Colorado toppled groceries off shelves and caused minor damage to homes in the southern part of the state and in northern New Mexico. No injuries were reported as aftershocks continued Tuesday.

In Charleston, West Virginia, hundreds of workers left the state Capitol building and employees at other downtown office buildings were asked to leave temporarily.

"The whole building shook," said Jennifer Bundy, a spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court. "You could feel two different shakes. Everybody just kind of came out on their own."

In Ohio, where office buildings swayed in Columbus and Cincinnati and the press box at the Cleveland Indians' Progressive Field shook. At least one building near the Statehouse was evacuated in downtown Columbus.

In downtown Baltimore, the quake sent office workers into the streets, where lamp posts swayed slightly as they called family and friends to check in.

Social media site Twitter lit up with reports of the earthquake from people using the site up and down the U.S. eastern seaboard.

"People pouring out of buildings and onto the downtown DC...," tweeted Republican strategist Kevin Madden.

"did you feel earthquake in ny? It started in richmond va!" tweeted Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group.

John Gurlach, air traffic controller at the Morgantown, West Virginia Municipal Airport was in a 40-foot-tall (12 meters) tower when the earth trembled.

"There were two of us looking at each other saying, 'What's that?'" he said, even as a commuter plane was landing. "It was noticeably shaking. It felt like a B-52 unloading."

Immediately, the phone rang from the nearest airport in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and a computer began spitting out green strips of paper — alerts from other airports in New York and Washington issuing ground stops "due to earthquake."

11 May 2011 Last updated at 16:21 ET
Spain: Earthquake rocks Lorca, Murcia, killing 10

At least 10 people were killed after a magnitude 5.3 earthquake toppled several buildings in southern Spain, near the town of Lorca, officials say.  The quake struck at a depth of just 1km (0.6 miles), some 120km south-west of Alicante, at 1850 (1650 GMT), the US Geological Survey reported.

Lines of cars lay crushed under tonnes of rubble and a hospital was evacuated as a precaution.  The quake followed a 4.4 magnitude tremor about two hours earlier.

It is not clear how many people were injured, although Spanish media say there are dozens.

Military deployed

Spanish TV captured dramatic images of a church bell tower crashing to the ground, landing just metres from the cameraman.  Shocked residents and workers rushed out of buildings and gathered in squares, parks and open spaces. Old buildings were badly damaged.  A doctor told the online edition of El Pais that she and her colleagues went into the streets and treated people with serious injuries, many of them "unconscious".

"The ambulances could not reach them. They took more than 40 minutes," she said.

The earthquakes were felt over a wide area.

"Unfortunately, we can confirm... deaths due to cave-ins and falling debris," Lorca Mayor Francisco Jodar told radio station Ser.

"We are trying to find out if there are people inside the collapsed houses," he added.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has deployed emergency military units to the scene, the Spanish Efe news agency reported. 

Mr Zapatero was in a meeting with Spanish King Juan Carlos when he was informed of the quake, the premier's office said in a statement.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Madrid says the quake is the most serious to hit Spain in about 50 years.

The US Geological Survey said both earthquakes happened at a depth of about six miles (10km).

Spain has hundreds of earthquakes every year but most of these are too small to be noticed. Murcia - the region where Lorca is situated - is the country's most seismically active area and suffered tremors in 2005 and 1999.

Murcia is close to the large fault line beneath the Mediterranean Sea where the European and African continents meet.

A number of aftershocks have been felt in the region after Wednesday's quake, and authorities fear the death toll could rise.

Quake shifted Japan; towns now flood at high tide
By JAY ALABASTER, Associated Press
Mon May 9, 2011, 5:46 am ET

ISHINOMAKI, Japan – When water begins to trickle down the streets of her coastal neighborhood, Yoshiko Takahashi knows it is time to hurry home.

Twice a day, the flow steadily increases until it is knee-deep, carrying fish and debris by her front door and trapping people in their homes. Those still on the streets slosh through the sea water in rubber boots or on bicycle.

"I look out the window, and it's like our houses are in the middle of the ocean," says Takahashi, who moved in three years ago.

The March 11 earthquake that hit eastern Japan was so powerful it pulled the entire country out and down into the sea. The mostly devastated coastal communities now face regular flooding, because of their lower elevation and damage to sea walls from the massive tsunamis triggered by the quake.

In port cities such as Onagawa and Kesennuma, the tide flows in and out among crumpled homes and warehouses along now uninhabited streets.

A cluster of neighborhoods in Ishinomaki city is rare in that it escaped tsunami damage through fortuitous geography. So, many residents still live in their homes, and they now face a daily trial: The area floods at high tide, and the normally sleepy streets turn frantic as residents rush home before the water rises too high.

"I just try to get all my shopping and chores done by 3 p.m.," says Takuya Kondo, 32, who lives with his family in his childhood home.

Most houses sit above the water's reach, but travel by car becomes impossible and the sewage system swamps, rendering toilets unusable.

Scientists say the new conditions are permanent.

Japan's northern half sits on the North American tectonic plate. The Pacific plate, which is mostly undersea, normally slides under this plate, slowly nudging the country west. But in the earthquake, the fault line between the two plates ruptured, and the North American plate slid up and out along the Pacific plate.

The rising edge of plate caused the sea floor off Japan's eastern coast to bulge up — one measuring station run by Tohoku University reported an underwater rise of 16 feet (5 meters) — creating the tsunami that devastated the coast. The portion of the plate under Japan was pulled lower as it slid toward the ocean, which caused a corresponding plunge in elevation under the country.

Some areas in Ishinomaki moved southeast 17 feet (5.3 meters) and sank 4 feet (1.2 meters) lower.

"We thought this slippage would happen gradually, bit by bit. We didn't expect it to happen all at once," says Testuro Imakiire, a researcher at Japan's Geospatial Information Authority, the government body in charge of mapping and surveys.

Imakiire says the quake was powerful enough to move the entire country, the first time this has been recorded since measurements began in the late 19th century. In Tokyo, 210 miles (340 kilometers) from Ishinomaki, parts of the city moved 9 inches (24 centimeters) seaward.

The drop lower was most pronounced around Ishinomaki, the area closest to the epicenter. The effects are apparent: Manholes, supported by underground piping, jut out of streets that fell around them. Telephone poles sank even farther, leaving wires at head height.

As surrounding areas clear rubble and make plans to rebuild, residents in this section of Ishinomaki are stuck in limbo — their homes are mostly undamaged and ineligible for major insurance claims or government compensation, but twice a day the tide swamps their streets.

"We can't really complain, because other people lost so much," says Yuichiro Mogi, 43, as his daughters examine a dead blowfish floating near his curb.

The earthquake and tsunami left more than 25,000 people either dead or missing, and many more lost their homes and possessions.

Mogi noticed that the daily floods were slowly carrying away the dirt foundation of his house, and built a small embankment of sandbags to keep the water at bay. The shipping company worker moved here 10 years ago, because he got a good deal on enough land to build a home with a spacious front lawn, where he lives with his four children and wife.

Most of the residences in the area are relatively new.

"Everyone here still has housing loans they have to pay, and you can't give away this land, let alone sell it," says Seietsu Sasaki, 57, who also has to pay off loans on two cars ruined in the flooding.

Sasaki, who moved in 12 years ago with his extended family, says he hopes the government can build flood walls to protect the neighborhood. He never paid much attention to the tides in the past, but now checks the newspaper for peak times each morning.

Officials have begun work on some embankments, but with much of the city devastated, resources are tight. Major construction projects to raise the roads were completed before the tsunami, but much of that work was negated when the ground below them sank.

The constant flooding means that construction crews can only work in short bursts, and electricity and running water were restored only about two weeks ago. The area still doesn't have gas for hot water, and residents go to evacuee shelters to bathe.

"We get a lot of requests to build up these areas, but we don't really have the budget right now," says Kiyoshi Koizumi, a manager in Ishinomaki's roads and infrastructure division.

Sasaki says he hopes they work something out soon: Japan's heavy summer rains begin in about a month, and the higher tides in autumn will rise well above the floor of his house.

Japan plans disaster budget, building 100K homes
By RAVI NESSMAN and YURI KAGEYAMA, Associated Press 1 hr 36 mins ago

TOKYO – Japan's government proposed a special $50 billion (4 trillion yen) budget to help finance reconstruction efforts Friday and plans to build 100,000 temporary homes for survivors of last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The twin disasters destroyed roads, ports, farms and homes and crippled a nuclear power plant that forced tens of thousands of more people to evacuate their houses for at least several months. The government said the damage could cost $309 billion, making it the world's most expensive natural disaster.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he was moved by his conversations with victims during a recent tour of shelters.

"I felt with renewed determination that we must do our best to get them back as soon as possible," he told reporters.

The extra $50 billion (4 trillion yen) the Cabinet approved is expected to be only the first installment of reconstruction funding. About $15 billion (1.2 trillion yen) will go to fixing roads and ports and more than $8.5 billion (700 billion yen) will go to build temporary homes and clearing rubble.

"This is the first step toward rebuilding Japan after the major disasters," Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said. Parliament is expected to approve the special budget next week.

More than 27,000 people are dead or missing after the earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan on March 11. About 135,000 survivors are living in 2,500 shelters, and many others have moved into temporary housing or are staying with relatives.

As part of the government's recovery plan, it will build 30,000 temporary homes by the end of May and another 70,000 after that, Kan said.

Japan already was mired in a 20-year economic slowdown, Kan said, and he hoped the disaster recovery effort would help lift Japan economically. He urged Japanese to spend money during the upcoming Golden Week holidays to help spur the economy.

"People are feeling that we all must do something, and that will turn into a big strength," he said. "And it will work to help the recovery, and we will overcome both crises."

Recovery efforts have been complicated by the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which lost its power and cooling systems in the earthquake and tsunami, triggering fires, explosions and radiation leaks in the world's second-worst nuclear accident.  Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which said it will take six to nine months to bring the plant under full control, has been heavily criticized for its handling of the crisis.

TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu was received harshly when he toured a shelter of 1,600 people in Koriyama.

"We're angry, angry, angry," one man shouted at him, according to television footage.

"How about you spend a month here?" another shouted.

"Take your nuclear energy back to Tokyo with you," a third said.

Shimizu apologized to the governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato, an outspoken critic of the response by the government and company to the nuclear crisis.  Sato bluntly told Shimizu the era of nuclear power plants in Fukushima had ended.

"No way. The resumption of nuclear power plants ... no way," he said.

Meanwhile, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Kita Ibaraki, a port wrecked by the tsunami about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Tokyo.

The royal couple surveyed the damage along the waterfront, where blocks of concrete were jumbled by the huge waves. When told that a man died there, they showed their respects with a deep bow toward the sea. They also visited an evacuation center.

An extra 250 police were sent to man roadblocks with flashing "Off Limits" signs Friday to stop some of the 80,000 evacuees from sneaking back to homes inside the now-sealed 12-mile (20-kilometer) evacuation zone around the stricken plant.

Authorities planned to erect fences on side streets, said Fukushima police spokesman Yasunori Okazaki. The order that took effect Friday is meant to limit radiation exposure and theft in the mainly deserted zone.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano appealed for residents of five areas with relatively high levels of radiation outside the sealed zone to prepare for evacuation within a month.

But Norio Kanno, chief of Iitate, a village of 6,200, questioned whether everyone would be able to move in time.

"It is really vexing. Just one nuclear accident is destroying everything," he said.

Magnitude-7.0 quake shakes Japan
Washington Times
11 April 2011

SENDAI, Japan (AP) — A strong new earthquake rattled Japan's northeast Monday as the government urged more people living near a tsunami-crippled nuclear plant to leave, citing concerns about long-term health risks from radiation.  The magnitude-7.0 aftershock came just hours after people bowed their heads and wept in somber ceremonies to mark a month since a massive earthquake and tsunami that killed up to 25,000 people and set off a crisis of radiation leaks at the nuclear plant by knocking out its cooling systems.

"Even after a month, I still cry when I watch the news," said Marina Seito, 19, a student at a junior college who recalled being in a basement restaurant in Sendai when the original 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit on March 11. Plates fell and parts of the ceiling crashed down around her.

Officials said Monday's aftershock did not endanger operations at the tsunami-flooded Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, where power was cut by the aftershock but quickly restored. The epicenter was just inland and about 100 miles north of Tokyo.  Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters that residents of five more communities, some of them more than 20 miles from the plant, were urged to evacuate within a month because of high levels of radiation. People living in a 12-mile radius around the plant already have been evacuated.

"This is not an emergency measure that people have to evacuate immediately," he said. "We have decided this measure based on long-term health risks."

Mr. Edano sounded a grave note, acknowledging that "the nuclear accident has not stabilized" and that "we cannot deny the possibility the situation could get worse."

The latest quake, the second major aftershock in less than a week, spooked people yet again in a disaster-weary northeastern Japan. Customers in a large electronics store in Sendai screamed and ran outside, and mothers grabbed their children, but there were no immediate reports of more damage or injuries.  Japanese officials said the quake was a 7.0 magnitude, but the U.S. Geological Survey said it measured magnitude 6.6.

With workers still far from bringing the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant under control, the bodies of thousands of tsunami victims yet to be found and more than 150,000 people living in shelters, there was little time Monday for reflection on Japan's worst disaster since World War II.

People in hard-hit towns gathered for ceremonies at 2:46 p.m., the exact moment of the massive quake a month earlier.

"My chest has been ripped open by the suffering and pain that this disaster has caused the people of our prefecture," said Yuhei Sato, the governor of Fukushima, which saw its coastal areas devastated by the tsunami and is home to the damaged plant at the center of the nuclear crisis. "I have no words to express my sorrow."

In a devastated coastal neighborhood in the city of Natori, three dozen firemen and soldiers removed their hats and helmets and joined hands atop a small hill that has become a memorial for the dead. Earlier, four monks in pointed hats rang a prayer bell there as they chanted for those killed.  The noisy clatter of construction equipment ceased briefly as crane operators stood outside their vehicles and bowed their heads.

In the industrial town of Kamaishi, Iwate Gov. Takuya Tasso led a moment of commemoration as a loud siren rang through a high school gymnasium being used as a shelter. He bowed while people who have lived there since the tsunami kneeled on makeshift futons, bowed their heads and clasped their hands.  The school's students will return to classes Tuesday even though 129 people are living in their gym. Some, such as 16-year-old Keisuke Shirato, wore their baseball uniforms for Monday's ceremony. Keisuke's family was not affected by the tsunami, but about half of his teammates lost their homes.

"A new school year starts tomorrow," he said. "Hopefully, that will help give people hope and allow them to look toward a new start."

The earthquake and tsunami flattened communities along hundreds of miles of coastline, causing what the government estimates could be as much as $310 billion in damage. About 250,000 are without electricity, although some of them because of the latest two quakes Monday and last Thursday.  Adding to the misery is radiation spewing from the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, 140 miles northeast of Tokyo. The 70,000 to 80,000 people who lived within 12 miles of the plant must stay away from their homes indefinitely.

"We have no future plans. We can't even start to think about it because we don't know how long this will last or how long we will have to stay in these shelters," said Atsushi Yanai, a 55-year-old construction worker. The tsunami spared his home, but he has to live in a shelter anyway because it is in the evacuation zone.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), the operator of the nuclear plant, said its president, Masataka Shimizu, went to Fukushima prefecture Monday to relay his gratitude and apologies. Mr. Shimizu recently spent eight days in the hospital with dizziness and high blood pressure but has since returned to work.  Mr. Shimizu told reporters in Fukushima that people who live near the plant are "suffering physically and mentally due to the nuclear radiation leak accident,"

"We sincerely apologize for this," he said.

At Tepco headquarters in Tokyo, hundreds of employees bowed their heads for a moment of silence at 2:46.  Japan's government marked the one-month period by putting an ad in newspapers in China, South Korea, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States — a letter from Prime Minister Naoto Kan thanking people for the outpouring of support that followed the tsunami. The Red Cross alone said it has collected $107 million (9.1 billion yen) from overseas.

Mr. Kan described the outpouring as "kizuna," the bond of friendship.

"We deeply appreciate the kizuna our friends from around the world have shown and I want to thank every nation, entity, and you personally, from the bottom of my heart."

Another strong quake rattles tsunami-ravaged Japan
By CARA RUBINSKY, Associated Press
7 April 2011

TOKYO – A magnitude-7.4 aftershock rattled Japan on Thursday night, knocking out power across a large swath of the northern part of the country nearly a month after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that flattened the northeastern coast.

Japan's meteorological agency issued a tsunami warning but canceled it about 90 minutes later. Officials said power was out in all of three northern prefectures (states) and in parts of two others.

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or damage. The aftershock was the strongest since the March 11 megaquake and tsunami that killed some 25,000 people, tore apart hundreds of thousands of homes and caused an ongoing crisis at a nuclear power plant.

The operator of the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant said there was no immediate sign of new problems caused by the aftershock, and Japan's nuclear safety agency says workers there retreated to a quake-resistant shelter in the complex. None were injured. The crisis there started when the tsunami knocked out cooling systems. Workers have not been able to restore them.

Thursday's quake knocked out several power lines at the Onagawa nuclear power plant north of Sendai, which has been shut down since the tsunami. One remaining line was supplying power to the plant and radiation monitoring devices detected no abnormalities. The plant's spent fuel pools briefly lost cooling capacity but an emergency diesel generator quickly kicked in.

Officials said the aftershock hit 30 miles (50 kilometers) under the water and off the coast of Miyagi prefecture. The U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., later downgraded it to 7.1.

Buildings as far away as Tokyo shook for about a minute.

The quake struck at 11:32 p.m. local time. Moments beforehand, residents in the western Tokyo suburb of Fuchu were warned on a neighborhood public address system of an imminent quake.

In Ichinoseki, inland from Japan's eastern coast, buildings shook violently, knocking items from shelves and toppling furniture, but there was no heavy damage to the buildings themselves. Immediately after the quake, all power was cut. The city went dark, but cars drove around normally and people assembled in the streets despite the late hour.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan huddled with staff members in his office shortly afterward, according to deputy Cabinet spokesman Noriyuki Shikata.

A separate government emergency response team met shortly after midnight to monitor any reports of damage and urged firefighters, police and other emergency personnel to aid those in need.

Paul Caruso, a geophysicist at USGS, said the quake struck at about the same location and depth as last month's huge one.

Another USGS geophysicist, Don Blakeman, said it was the strongest aftershock since March 11, although several aftershocks on that day were bigger.

The USGS said the aftershock struck off the eastern coast 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Sendai and 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Fukushima. It was about 205 miles (330 kilometers) from Tokyo.

Note:  "Credit Default Swaps" play a role here.
Tepco chief quits after $15 billion loss on nuclear crisis

By Nathan Layne and Taiga Uranaka
20 May 2011

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo Electric Power Co reported a $15 billion net loss on Friday to account for the disaster at its Fukushima nuclear plant, marking the biggest loss in Japan by a non-financial company and prompting the firm to warn its future was uncertain.

Much-criticized president, Masataka Shimizu, 66, resigned to take responsibility for the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, making way for an insider, managing director Toshio Nishizawa, 60.

Engineers are battling to plug radiation leaks and bring the plant northeast of Tokyo under control more than two months after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and deadly tsunami that devastated a swathe of Japan's coastline and tipped the economy into recession.  The disaster has triggered a drop of more than 80 percent in Tokyo Electric's share price and forced the company to seek government aid as it faces compensation liabilities that some analysts say could top $100 billion.

Before speaking, Shimizu bowed before a packed press conference at the company's headquarters in the capital. Nishizawa, who has worked at the utility since 1975, stood to his left.

"We feel sorry for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. At the same time we want to sincerely apologize for our nuclear reactors in Fukushima causing so much anxiety, worry and trouble to society," the outgoing president said.

For the business year that ended March 31, the company, commonly known as Tepco, posted a 1.25 trillion yen ($15 billion) net loss after accounting for 1 trillion yen to scrap reactors at the Fukushima complex and write off tax assets.  The earnings figures were released after the close of Tokyo stock market trading and represent a landmark in the company's 60-year history.

Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other lawmakers have lambasted Tepco for its handling of the disaster. At one stage, Kan reportedly demanded company executives tell him: "What the hell is going on?"

Shimizu did not make any public appearances in the two weeks that followed the March 11 disaster, sparking criticism Tepco lacked leadership as it fought to bring the plant under control.  Shortly after, he was hospitalized with dizzy spells as Tepco's share price plummeted and the company lurched close to collapse.


Nishizawa takes over at a time when even the company admits there is major uncertainty over whether it can continue as a going concern.  Apart from compensation claims and quake tsunami damage, TEPCO expects other costs to include 700 billion yen this business year to buy more gas and coal to replace lost nuclear power capacity.

Since the crisis, Tepco has been supported by banks that offered emergency loans. The government has promised to help Tepco handle compensate claims by thousands of households and businesses forced to evacuate from around the Fukushima plant because of radiation risks, although the issue is far from settled.

"I feel a massive weight of responsibility to assume the post when we are in an unprecedented crisis never experienced in the history of the company," said Nishizawa.

"But I decided to take it because I believe it is my mission to challenge head-on this difficult situation."

Tepco's five-year credit default swaps reached a record 762 basis points late on Thursday, or the equivalent of $762,000 to insure $10 million of debt against default.  The spreads have more than tripled since the government's chief spokesman Yukio Edano last week suggested banks waive some of Tepco's debt, raising concern the government may not support the company. Economics minister Kaoru Yosano said banks should not be liable.

"There are conflicting comments coming out of the government now," said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Inc.

Tepco though is the only power supplier to Tokyo and some surrounding areas that account for 40 percent of Japan's economy, so the government will be under pressure to keep the company afloat, analysts say.

The stricken Fukushima Daiichi makes up less than 5,000 megawatts (MW) of Tepco's overall generation capacity of 65,000 MW.

"You might as well recapitalize the thing that's there at the moment," said Ben Wedmore, director of equity research at MF Global FXA Securities. "I would think that by the end of June the debt-equity ratio would be such that there has to be some plan to recapitalize. Otherwise the debt would be junk level and the banks would be unable to lend."

Parliament is discussing the plan to help the utility handle compensation. Kan is battling low support ratings and a feisty opposition that has the power to block some legislation.  The compensation scheme would be funded with taxpayers' money and contributions from other nuclear plant operators, but it places no limit on Tepco's liabilities for compensation, a factor likely to hobble its finances for years and weigh on its credit rating.

"While a reconsideration of their corporate structure is important, the bigger pressure is how the government will structure their compensation scheme," said Hiroki Shibata, an analyst at Standard & Poor's Ratings. "I don't see any immediate impact from the change in presidents."


The 1.25 trillion-yen loss revealed Friday exceeds the 812 billion yen deficit booked by Japan's biggest telephone utility, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, in the year to March 31, 2002, and the 795 billion yen loss by industrial conglomerate Hitachi Ltd two years ago.  Only banks have had bigger losses, with Mizuho Financial Group holding the record with a shortfall of 2.4 trillion yen eight years ago.

Faced with so much uncertainty, Tepco did not offer earnings guidance for the current year to March 2012.  Tepco has not made an estimate for the likely cost of compensating all victims. Analyst forecasts have ranged from around $25 billion up to $130 billion if the crisis at the nuclear complex drags on.

On Tuesday, TEPCO said it aimed to complete initial steps to limit the release of further radiation from the plant and to shut down its three unstable reactors by January 2012.

In a bid to raise cash, TEPCO said it planned to sell assets worth 600 billion yen.

The biggest gem in its asset portfolio is a 7.9 percent stake in KDDI, a telecommunications company that owns Japan's No. 2 mobile phone network. The stake is worth 201 billion yen based on Thursday's closing price.

Other stock holdings in companies not directly involved in its generating business amount to little more. Tepco values all the stocks on its books at 310 billion yen.  Most of its investments however are locked up in its generating and transmission infrastructure, with 60 percent of 13 trillion yen in assets on its balance sheet accounted for by nuclear plants and other fixed assets.

Shares of Tepco closed up 2.5 percent at 376 yen, compared with a 0.1 percent fall in the benchmark Nikkei 225 index.

Setbacks mount in Japan at leaking nuclear plant
By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press
30 March 2011

TOKYO – Setbacks mounted Wednesday in the crisis over Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear facility, with nearby seawater testing at its highest radiation levels yet and the president of the plant operator checking into a hospital with hypertension.  Nearly three weeks after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami slammed and engulfed the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, knocking out cooling systems that keeps nuclear fuel rods from overheating, Tokyo Electric Power Co. is still struggling to bring the facility in northeastern Japan under control.

The country's revered Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko reached out to some of the thousands displaced by the twin disasters — which have killed more than 11,000 people — spending about an hour consoling a group of evacuees at a Tokyo center.

"I couldn't talk with them very well because I was nervous, but I felt that they were really concerned about us," said Kenji Ukito, an evacuee from a region near the plant. "I was very grateful."

At the crippled plant, leaking radiation has seeped into the soil and seawater nearby and made its way into produce, raw milk and even tap water as far as Tokyo, 140 miles (220 kilometers) to the south.  The stress of reining in Japan's worst crisis since World War II has taken its toll on TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu, who went to a hospital late Tuesday.  Shimizu, 66, has not been seen in public since a March 13 news conference in Tokyo, raising speculation that he had suffered a breakdown. For days, officials deflected questions about Shimizu's whereabouts, saying he was "resting" at company headquarters.

Spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said Wednesday that Shimizu had been admitted to a Tokyo hospital after suffering dizziness and high blood pressure.  The leadership vacuum at TEPCO — whose shares have plunged nearly 80 percent since the crisis began — comes amid growing criticism over its failure to halt the radiation leaks. Bowing deeply, arms at his side, Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata announced at a news conference that he would step in and apologized for the delay.

"We must do everything we can to end this situation as soon as possible for the sake of everyone who has been affected," said Yuhei Sato, governor of Fukushima prefecture. "I am extremely disappointed and saddened by the suggestion that this might drag out longer."

Although experts have said since the early days of the crisis that the nuclear complex will need to be scrapped because workers have sprayed it with corrosive seawater to keep fuel rods cool, TEPCO acknowledged publicly for the first time Wednesday that at least four of the plant's six reactors will have to be decommissioned.

"After pouring seawater on them ... I believe we cannot use them anymore," Katsumata said. Japan's government has been saying since March 20 that the entire plant must be scrapped.

On Wednesday, nuclear safety officials said seawater 300 yards (meters) outside the plant contained 3,355 times the legal limit for the amount of radioactive iodine — the highest rate yet and a sign that more contaminated water was making its way into the ocean.  The amount of iodine-131 found south of the plant does not pose an immediate threat to human health but was a "concern," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official. He said there was no fishing in the area.

Radioactive iodine is short-lived, with a half-life of just eight days, and in any case was expected to dissipate quickly in the ocean. It does not tend to accumulate in shellfish.

"We will nail down the cause, and will do our utmost to prevent it from rising further," he said.

Highly toxic plutonium also has been detected in the soil outside the plant, TEPCO said. Safety officials said the amounts did not pose a risk to humans, but the finding supports suspicions that dangerously radioactive water is leaking from damaged nuclear fuel rods. There have been no reports of plutonium being found in seawater.  The latest findings on radioactive iodine highlighted the urgent need to power up the power plant's cooling system. Workers succeeded last week in reconnecting some parts of the plant to the power grid.

But as they pumped in water to cool the reactors and nuclear fuel, they found pools of radioactive water in the basements of several buildings and in trenches outside.

The contaminated water has been emitting many times the amount of radiation that the government considers safe for workers, making it a priority to pump the water out before electricity can be restored.

Complicating matters, the tanks storing the contaminated water are beginning to fill up. Pumping at one unit has been suspended since Tuesday night while workers scramble to drain a new tank after the first one reached capacity. And the water just kept coming Wednesday, when a new pool was found.

In another effort to reduce the spread of radioactive particles, TEPCO plans to spray resin on the ground around the plant. The company will test the method Thursday in one section of the plant before using it elsewhere, Nishiyama said.

"The idea is to glue them to the ground," he said. But it would be too sticky to use inside buildings or on sensitive equipment.

The government also is considering covering some reactors with cloth tenting, TEPCO said. If successful, that could allow workers to spend longer periods of time in other areas of the plant.  Meanwhile, white smoke was reported coming from a plant about 10 miles (15 kilometers) from the troubled one. The smoke quickly dissipated and no radiation was released; officials were looking into its cause. The Fukushima Daini plant also suffered some damage in the tsunami but has been in cold shutdown since days after the quake.

The spread of radiation has raised concerns about the safety of Japan's seafood, even though experts say the low levels suggest radiation won't accumulate in fish at unsafe levels. Trace amounts of radioactive cesium-137 have been found in anchovies as far afield as Chiba, near Tokyo, but at less than 1 percent of acceptable levels.

Experts say the Pacific is so vast that any radiation will be quickly diluted before it becomes problematic. Citing dilution, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has played down the risks of seafood contamination.

As officials seek to bring an end to the nuclear crisis, hundreds of thousands in the northeast are trying to put their lives back together. The official death toll stood at 11,257 on Wednesday, with the final toll likely surpassing 18,000.  The government said damage is expected to cost $310 billion, making it the most costly natural disaster on record.

In the town of Rikuzentakata, one 24-year-old said she's been searching every day for a missing friend but will have to return to her job at a nursing home because she has run out of cash.  Life is far from back to normal, she said.

"Our family posted a sign in our house: Stay positive," Eri Ishikawa said. But she said it's a struggle.

Now it is classified as a 9.0
Hundreds killed in tsunami after 8.9 Japan quake

By MALCOLM FOSTER, Associated Press
11 March 2011

TOKYO – A ferocious tsunami spawned by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded slammed Japan's eastern coast Friday, killing hundreds of people as it swept away boats, cars and homes while widespread fires burned out of control.

Hours later, the tsunami hit Hawaii and wa
rnings blanketed the Pacific, as far away as South America, Canada, Alaska and the entire U.S. West Coast.

Police said 200 to 300 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai. Another 88 were confirmed killed and at least 349 were missing. The death toll was likely to continue climbing given the scale of the disaster.

The magnitude 8.9 offshore quake unleashed a 23-foot (7-meter) tsunami and was followed by more than 50 aftershocks for hours, many of them of more than magnitude 6.0.

Dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometer) stretch of coastline were shaken by violent tremors that reached as far away as Tokyo, hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the epicenter.

"The earthquake has caused major damage in broad areas in northern Japan," Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a news conference.

The government ordered thousands of residents near a nuclear power plant in Onahama city to evacuate because the plant's system was unable to cool the reactor. The reactor was not leaking radiation but its core remained hot even after a shutdown. The plant is 170 miles (270 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

Trouble was reported at two other nuclear plants as well, but there was no radiation leak at any.

Japan's coast guard said it was searching for 80 dock workers working on a ship that was swept away from a shipyard in Miyagi prefecture.

Even for a country used to earthquakes, this one was of horrific proportions because of the tsunami that crashed ashore, swallowing everything in its path as it surged several miles (kilometers) inland before retreating. The apocalyptic images of surging water broadcast by Japanese TV networks resembled scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie.

Large fishing boats and other sea vessels rode high waves into the cities, slamming against overpasses or scraping under them and snapping power lines along the way. Upturned and partially submerged vehicles were seen bobbing in the water. Ships anchored in ports crashed against each other.

The highways to the worst-hit coastal areas were severely damaged and communications, including telephone lines, were snapped. Train services in northeastern Japan and in Tokyo, which normally serve 10 million people a day, were also suspended, leaving untold numbers stranded in stations or roaming the streets. Tokyo's Narita airport was closed indefinitely.

Jesse Johnson, a native of the U.S. state of Nevada, who lives in Chiba, north of Tokyo, was eating at a sushi restaurant with his wife when the quake hit.

"At first it didn't feel unusual, but then it went on and on. So I got myself and my wife under the table," he told The Associated Press. "I've lived in Japan for 10 years and I've never felt anything like this before. The aftershocks keep coming. It's gotten to the point where I don't know whether it's me shaking or an earthquake."

Waves of muddy waters flowed over farmland near the city of Sendai, carrying buildings, some on fire, inland as cars attempted to drive away. Sendai airport, north of Tokyo, was inundated with cars, trucks, buses and thick mud deposited over its runways. Fires spread through a section of the city, public broadcaster NHK reported.

More than 300 houses were washed away in Ofunato City alone. Television footage showed mangled debris, uprooted trees, upturned cars and shattered timber littering streets.

The tsunami roared over embankments, washing anything in its path inland before reversing directions and carrying the cars, homes and other debris out to sea. Flames shot from some of the houses, probably because of burst gas pipes.

"Our initial assessment indicates that there has already been enormous damage," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. "We will make maximum relief effort based on that assessment."

He said the Defense Ministry was sending troops to the quake-hit region. A utility aircraft and several helicopters were on the way.

A large fire erupted at the Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture and burned out of control with 100-foot (30 meter) -high flames whipping into the sky.

From northeastern Japan's Miyagi prefecture, NHK showed footage of a large ship being swept away and ramming directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city.

NHK said more than 4 million buildings were without power in Tokyo and its suburbs.

Also in Miyagi, a fire broke out in a turbine building of a nuclear power plant, but it was later extinguished, said Tohoku Electric Power Co. the company said.

A reactor area of a nearby plant was leaking water, the company said. But it was unclear if the leak was caused by tsunami water or something else. There were no reports of radioactive leaks at any of Japan's nuclear plants.

Jefferies International Limited, a global investment banking group, said it estimated overall losses to be about $10 billion.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 2:46 p.m. quake was a magnitude 8.9, the biggest earthquake to hit Japan since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s, and one of the biggest ever recorded in the world.

The quake struck at a depth of six miles (10 kilometers), about 80 miles (125 kilometers) off the eastern coast, the agency said. The area is 240 miles (380 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

A tsunami warning was extended to a number of Pacific, Southeast Asian and Latin American nations, including Japan, Russia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Chile. In the Philippines, authorities ordered an evacuation of coastal communities, but no unusual waves were reported.

Thousands of people fled their homes in Indonesia after officials warned of a tsunami up to 6 feet (2 meters) high. But waves of only 4 inches (10 centimeters) were measured. No big waves came to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, either.

The first waves hit Hawaii about 1400 GMT (9 a.m. EST) Friday. A tsunami at least 3 feet (a meter) high were recorded on Oahu and Kauai, and officials warned that the waves would continue and could become larger.

In downtown Tokyo, large buildings shook violently and workers poured into the street for safety. TV footage showed a large building on fire and bellowing smoke in the Odaiba district of Tokyo. The tremor bent the upper tip of the iconic Tokyo Tower, a 1,093-foot (333-meter) steel structure inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Osamu Akiya, 46, was working in Tokyo at his office in a trading company when the quake hit.

It sent bookshelves and computers crashing to the floor, and cracks appeared in the walls.

"I've been through many earthquakes, but I've never felt anything like this," he said. "I don't know if we'll be able to get home tonight."

Footage on NHK from their Sendai office showed employees stumbling around and books and papers crashing from desks. It also showed a glass shelter at a bus stop in Tokyo completely smashed by the quake and a weeping woman nearby being comforted by another woman.

Several quakes had hit the same region in recent days, including a 7.3 magnitude one on Wednesday that caused no damage.

Hiroshi Sato, a disaster management official in northern Iwate prefecture, said officials were having trouble getting an overall picture of the destruction.

"We don't even know the extent of damage. Roads were badly damaged and cut off as tsunami washed away debris, cars and many other things," he said.

Dozens of fires were reported in northern prefectures of Fukushima, Sendai, Iwate and Ibaraki. Collapsed homes and landslides were also reported in Miyagi.

Japan's worst previous quake was in 1923 in Kanto, an 8.3-magnitude temblor that killed 143,000 people, according to USGS. A 7.2-magnitude quake in Kobe city in 1996 killed 6,400 people.

Japan lies on the "Ring of Fire" — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching around the Pacific where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur, including the one that triggered the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 12 nations. A magnitude-8.8 temblor that shook central Chile last February also generated a tsunami and killed 524 people.

7.6 earthquake hits in Pacific Ocean near Vanuatu

New LondonDAY
Dec 25, 9:12 AM EST

SYDNEY (AP) -- An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 has struck in the South Pacific near the island nation of Vanuatu and a tsunami warning has been issued.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake was about 140 miles south of Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila. It struck Sunday just after midnight about 15 miles below the ocean surface.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, and no more details were immediately available.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami was possible based on the strength of the earthquake. It was not immediately confirmed whether a tsunami had occurred.

The warning area covered Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji.

Strong earthquake hits off southern Japan
21 December 2010

TOKYO – A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.4 has struck in the Pacific Ocean off southern Japan.

Japan's Meteorological Agency has issued a tsunami warning from the quake, which occurred about 130 kilometers (80.6 miles) off the southern coast of Chichi Island in the Pacific Ocean. The offshore quake struck at around 2:20 a.m. (1720 GMT) at the depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).

The agency issued a tsunami alert of up to 2 meters (6 feet) for nearby islands and warnings of milder tsunami for the southern coasts on the main Japanese island.

A minor swelling of waves of about 30 centimeters (1 foot) was observed on the island's shorelines about 40 minutes after the quake, the agency said.

There was no immediate report of any damage or injuries.

"It shook quite violently. I'm sure everyone was scared," said Kenji Komura, principal at a high school on the island. He rushed to school, where about 20 students gathered to take refuge. Despite the shaking, nothing fell on the floor or got damaged at school, Komura said.

About 170 people evacuated to several community centers and school buildings on the Chichi and nearby Haha islands, public broadcaster NHK said.

Tomoo Yamawaki, a fisheries cooperative official on the Chichi island, said he has observed no significant swelling of the waves so far.

"We've taken all fishing boats on the island off coast to protect them from the tsunami," said Yamawaki, who is in charge of community tsunami broadcast, told NHK. "We haven't observed any significant change in the waves, but we urge all residents to immediately evacuate to a safer place."

Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. In 1995, a magnitude-7.2 quake in the western port city of Kobe killed 6,400 people.

Strong earthquake hits Indonesia; no casualties
Associated Press
Nov 30, 9:52 PM EST

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- A strong, shallow earthquake has rocked parts of eastern Indonesia. There have been no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake was centered 343 kilometers (212 miles) northwest of Saumlaki, a coastal town in Maluku province, on Sunday morning. It had a magnitude of 6.3 at a depth of about 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) beneath the sea.

Indonesia's earthquake agency gave a magnitude of 6.7. No tsunami warning has been issued.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In 2004, a monster temblor off Indonesia's Aceh shores triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. Most of the deaths were in Aceh.

Earthquake Causes Damage in Philippines
August 31, 2012

MANILA (Reuters) - An earthquake of 7.6 magnitude struck off the Philippines on Friday damaging roads and bridges and sending people fleeing to higher ground in fear of a tsunami, a politician and authorities said.

The quake was centered off the east coast, 91 miles off the town of Guiuan in Samar province at a depth of about 20 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said.  The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for much of the region, but canceled it about two hours later.  However, Philippine authorities maintained their tsunami warning after ordering residents to get out of coastal areas immediately.

"We are in a wait and see situation, some bridges and roads were damaged and people panicked and are now on higher ground," Samar congressman, Ben Evardone, told local radio.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, said the head of the national disaster agency, Benito Ramos.  Large parts of Samar and Leyte province had no power or internet connections.

"The only lights you see are from vehicles in the streets headed to higher ground," said a radio reporter in the town of Borongan.

The tsunami warning was initially issued for the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and other islands in the Pacific including the U.S. state of Hawaii.  Small waves of about 16 cm (6 inches) had hit a southern Philippine island, the seismology agency said, and warned that bigger ones could follow.  Renato Solidum, head of the agency, said residents should get to a 10-metre elevation until the tsunami alert was lifted.

The region has been hit by two huge quakes in the past decade. At least 230,000 people in 13 Indian Ocean countries were killed in a quake and tsunami off Indonesia in 2004.  Last year, an earthquake and tsunami off Japan's northeastern coast killed about 20,000 people and triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years after waves battered a nuclear power station.

Indonesia issues new tsunami alert for aftershock
Associated Press

By Fakhrurradzie Gade
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — A massive earthquake off Indonesia's western coast triggered tsunami fears across the Indian Ocean on Wednesday, sending residents in coastal cities fleeing to high ground in cars and on the backs of motorcycles.

A strong aftershock nearly three hours later sparked a new wave of panic. Indonesia's government responded by issuing a fresh tsunami warning.

Some residents were crying in Aceh, where memories of a 2004 tsunami that killed 170,000 people in the province alone, are still raw. Others screamed "God is great" as they poured from their homes or searched frantically for separated family members.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the first 8.6-magnitude quake was centered 20 miles (33 kilometers) beneath the ocean floor around 269 miles (434 kilometers) from Aceh province.

That prompted the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii to issue a tsunami watch for Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa and Singapore.

A wave measuring less than 30 inches (80 centimeters) high, rolled to Indonesia's coast. There were no other signs of serious damage. But just as the region was sighing relief, an 8.2-magnitude aftershock hit.

"We just issued another tsunami warning," Prih Harjadi, from Indonesia's geophysics agency, told TVOne in a live interview.

People along the western coast of Sumatra island and the Mentawai islands were told to stay clear of coasts.  The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centers watch remained in effect. A tsunami watch means there is the potential for a tsunami, not that one is imminent.  The initial quake was a strike-slip, not a thrust quake, according to experts. In a strike slip quake, the earth moves horizontally rather than vertically and doesn't displace large volumes of water.  They were still analyzing the aftershock.

"When I first saw this was an 8.7 near Sumatra, I was fearing the worst," Roger Musson, seismologist at the British geological survey who has studied Sumatra's fault lines, noting one of the initial reported magnitudes for the quake. "But as soon as I discovered what type of earthquake it was, then I felt a lot better."

The first tremor was felt in Malaysia, where it caused high-rise buildings to shake for about a minute, and in Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh and India.  It caused chaos in the streets of Aceh. Patients poured out of hospitals, some with drips still attached to their arms. In some places, electricity was briefly cut.  Hours after the temblor, people were still standing outside their homes and offices, afraid to go back inside.

"I was in the shower on the fifth floor of my hotel," Timbang Pangaribuan told El Shinta radio from the city of Medan. "We all ran out. ... We're all standing outside now."

He said one guest was injured when he jumped from the window of his room.  Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center issued an evacuation order to residents in six provinces along the country's west coast, including the popular tourist destinations of Phuket, Krabi and Phang-Nga.  India's Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for parts of the eastern Andaman and Nicobar islands. In Tamil Nadu in southern India, police cordoned off the beach and used loudspeakers to warn people to leave the area.

The quake was felt in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where many people in the city's commercial Motijheel district left their offices and homes in panic and ran into the streets. No damage or causalities were reported.  In Male, the capital of the Maldives, buildings were evacuated.  Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.

A giant 9.1-magnitude quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, most of them in Aceh.

7.7-magnitude quake hits off Indonesian island
By ALI KOTARUMALOS, Associated Press Writer
Mon Oct 25, 1:42 pm ET

JAKARTA, Indonesia – A powerful earthquake hit off western Indonesia late Monday, briefly triggering a tsunami warning that sent thousands of panicked residents fleeing to high ground. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The 7.7-magnitude temblor struck at a depth of 13 miles (20 kilometers) off Sumatra island, said the U.S. Geological Survey.

At least five towns in the provinces of Bengkulu and West Sumatra were badly jolted, officials and witnesses said, as were the nearby Mentawai islands.

"Everyone was running out of their houses," said Sofyan Alawi, a resident in the city of Padang, adding that, with loudspeakers from mosques blaring out tsunami warnings, the roads leading to surrounding hills were quickly jammed with cars and motorcycles.

"We kept looking back to see if a wave was coming," said 28-year-old resident Ade Syahputra.

Areas closest to the epicenter of the 9:42 p.m. (10:42 a.m. EDT, 1442 GMT) quake were sparsely populated, and there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, said Ade Edward, a disaster management agency official.

A 5.0-magnitude aftershock hit less than an hour after the original quake, and the region remained on alert for more.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity due to its location on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire.

The city of Padang was badly shaken one year ago by a 7.6-magnitude quake that killed at least 700 people and flattened or severely damaged 180,000 buildings.

That followed the 2004 tsunami off Sumatra's westernmost province of Aceh that was triggered by a 9.1-magnitude quake and killed 230,000 in a dozen countries, roughly half in Indonesia.

US Monitor: 7.5-Magnitude Quake Hits Off Indonesia
Filed at 11:16 a.m. ET
October 25, 2010

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A strong earthquake has hit off the western coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island and triggered a tsunami watch.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the 7.5-magnitude temblor struck at a depth of 20 miles (30 kilometers) and is centered on a small island off the coast of Sumatra, where a massive earthquake and tsunami hit in 2004.

A tsunami watch was issued for Indonesia, saying waves were possible within a few hundred miles (kilometers) of the epicenter. However, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said historical data suggest any wave it created would not be destructive.

People walk past a church in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was destroyed after an earthquake struck Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011. The 6.3-magnitude quake collapsed buildings and is sending rescuers scrambling to help trapped people amid reports of multiple deaths. (AP Photo/NZPA, Pam Johnson)People walk past a church in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was destroyed after an earthquake struck Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011. The 6.3-magnitude quake collapsed buildings and is sending rescuers scrambling to help trapped people amid reports of multiple deaths. (AP Photo/NZPA, Pam Johnson)

New Zealand earthquake damages Wellington parliament
21 July 2013 Last updated at 03:26 ET

A minute-long earthquake has shaken New Zealand, halting trains and damaging Wellington's parliament building.  The 6.5-magnitude tremor was centred 35 miles (57 km) off the coast south of the capital at a depth of 6.3 miles, said the US Geological Survey.

But while some structural damage and power cuts were reported, officials said there was no risk of a tsunami.  The quake hit at 17:09 (05:09 GMT) and was felt as far north as Auckland.  It smashed windows, knocked stock off shop shelves and burst some water pipes, but there have been no reports of serious casualties.

Tony Vale, Radio New Zealand: "It felt like the house was about to get up and walk down the street"

Wellington resident James Mclaren said the earthquake had caused power cuts in the city suburbs and prompted the temporary closure of its airport.

"There's been a bit of structural damage, lots of shattered glass everywhere," he told the BBC. "Initially there were a few screams and panic, people thought it was another Christchurch."

A 6.3-magnitude earthquake centred near Christchurch in February 2011 killed 185 people.  Sunday's tremor was the latest in a series that have shaken the lower half of New Zealand's North Island in recent days.  New Zealand lies on the notorious Ring of Fire, the line of frequent quakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim.

The country experiences more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which only around 20 have a magnitude in excess of 5.0.

Parts of quake-hit N.Z. city to be abandoned: PM
Tue Mar 8, 2011 1:13 am ET

WELLINGTON (AFP) – Christchurch was so badly damaged in last month's deadly earthquake that parts of New Zealand's second largest city will have to be abandoned, Prime Minister John Key has said.  Key confirmed 10,000 homes faced demolition after the 6.3-magnitude tremor which is believed to have claimed more than 200 lives, warning that rebuilding would not be possible in some areas.

"We simply don't know," he told Radio New Zealand when asked which parts of the city would be deserted. "We know there's been substantial liquefaction damage.

"It's a statement of fact that there will be some properties that can't be rebuilt... the question is whether it (rebuilding) is possible for certain parts of the city, certain streets or houses."

Key said geotechnical engineers were working urgently to clarify the areas worst affected by liquefaction, caused when the quake's shaking loosened the bonds between soil particles, turning the ground into a quagmire.  Community worker Tom McBrearty said the prime minister's comments had increased anxiety among residents still reeling from the February 22 quake.  McBrearty said his group Cancern had been flooded with hundreds of calls from locals concerned Key's remarks indicated their suburbs were set to become ghost towns.

"It was a shocker," he told national news agency NZPA.

"They interpreted... it as being that the riverside communities would not be allowed to be rebuilt, which is at this stage is incorrect. We don't know, we're still waiting for final analysis."

Key said the government would provide financial assistance to those who were forced to move and was in talks with developers about releasing new subdivisions to cope with the demand for housing in the stricken city.  Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said speculation on the fate of entire suburbs was "alarmist" and urged residents to wait until geotechnical reports were complete.  The death toll from the earthquake stood at 166 Tuesday but police expect it to rise to more than 200.

Meanwhile, Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said the disaster was likely to lead to a "pause" in international tickets sales for the tournament, which will be held in New Zealand from September 9 to October 23.

"We anticipate that we'll lose some ground for a while, whether we can make that up later is another matter," he said, adding that he was optimistic Christchurch could take part in the largest event ever staged in the country.

"We're operating on the basis that if it can happen, we'll make it happen," he told reporters.

McCully said the government would receive initial reports on Thursday into damage at Christchurch's AMI Stadium, which is slated to host five pool matches and two quarter-finals.  He said the playing surface at the ground, which is closed until March 15 for damage assessment, had a significant "bulge" caused by liquefaction and there were "structural issues" with some of the stands.

The lack of hotel accommodation in the city, where one third of the downtown area faces demolition, was also a concern, McCully said.  He said the International Rugby Board would make the final decision on Christchurch's participation in the tournament, describing the Dublin-based organisation as "enormously supportive" of efforts to keep matches in the city.

At NZ quake epicenter, screams and flying boulders
By KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press
24, February 2011

LYTTELTON, New Zealand – At the epicenter, children in the school playground screamed as the earth rattled and cracked. Elderly residents toppled to the floor in the nursing home. Cliff faces fell, spitting truck-sized boulders across lawns and through houses.

This week's massive earthquake flattened office towers and killed at least 103 people in nearby Christchurch. But this tiny harborside village reported no deaths despite being at ground zero.

Residents are thankful for that. But there is devastation all around them.

"I thought the devil was coming up out of the earth," said Kevin Fitzgerald, a 63-year-old teacher's aide who yanked a student under a desk and sheltered him as the school rocked menacingly, sending everything crashing to the floor.

"The whole building was just undulating — that noise, that NOISE!" he said Thursday, shaking his head at the memory. "I thought, 'Well, I'm going to die.'"

The rumbling started at 12:51 p.m. Tuesday. When it stopped, Fitzgerald ran to join the students on the school's playground, most of whom were sobbing hysterically. He saw a giant, mushroom-shaped cloud of dust hovering over the town. The community's usual hum was replaced by silence, punctuated by screams, dog barks and seagull calls.

Two days later, dazed residents of the close-knit village of 3,000 wandered through dusty, brick- and glass-covered streets, pausing when they passed each other to offer hugs, shed a few tears and ask the question on everyone's mind: "How's your house?"

The answer was generally grim. Most homes bore at least some quake-induced scars. The popular Ground deli was in ruins, windows were blown out of shop fronts and the stone steeple on the Union Parish Church had toppled to the ground.

Though there was a report of one man crushed by a boulder, so far there are no confirmed deaths in Lyttelton. By contrast the death toll in Christchurch, just seven miles to the north, stood at 103 early Friday and there were grave fears for more than 200 missing people in what could end up being New Zealand's worst natural disaster. No one has been pulled out alive since Wednesday afternoon.

Water supplies to Lyttelton were cut, and residents gathered Thursday at a fresh water station set up near the town center, filling as many watering cans, plastic buckets and bottles as they could carry home. The pavement under their feet wobbled during relentless aftershocks, but residents said they were nothing compared with Tuesday's nightmare.

Lloyd Millar, 50, was walking up one of the community's steep hills when he felt the road shift under his feet.

"It was like standing on a swinging bridge and somebody on the end jumping up and down," he said.

Millar was filling buckets with water to haul back to his restaurant, which was covered in a greasy layer of spilled oil and sauce. His house was a wreck. The driveway had been lifted from the ground and slid downward and the brick walls crumbled in places, exposing foundation and wires.

Jean Smith's eyes filled with tears as she recalled the dread she felt Tuesday when the road beneath her car began to tilt. The 64-year-old clutched the steering wheel as the vehicle was thrown back and forth across the street.

"NO! NO! NO!" she screamed as a church crumbled in front of her and shrieking children streamed from the school across the road.

She was terrified. Was her husband Tom all right back at the house? She'd forgotten her cell phone and had no way to contact him.

The giant boulders and massive piles of rubble that littered the streets turned her normally five-minute drive home into a six-hour journey from hell. When she finally arrived, her heart sank — the house was a mess, and Tom nowhere to be found.

The home they'd built together nearly 40 years ago had shifted several inches off its foundation, and parts of the outer wall had collapsed, exposing pink insulation. Her precious crystal had tumbled out of a living room cabinet and shattered. A beloved antique clock that belonged to her mother was smashed, and a toppled bottle of sambuca left a sticky mess on a blue carpet.

She sat on a dining room chair and sobbed. Tom arrived minutes later and they clutched each other. "I'm glad you're safe," she told him. "They're only breakable things."

Nearby, Jackie Crawford, 66, ran to check on her 89-year-old mother, Shirley Smith, at the Lyttelton nursing home. When she arrived, elderly patients were sprawled across the floor, and TVs had tumbled from their stands. She and staff members rushed to help the residents to their feet.

"Everyone was in shock, looking stunned," she said.

Miraculously, she found her mother safe in her room, bustling around — and proudly pointing out the vase of flowers she'd managed to grab before it crashed to the floor.

The quake unleashed huge boulders from surrounding hills, sending them hurtling toward the village. One monstrous rock, around 16 feet (5 meters) wide and 10 feet (3 meters) tall, bounced twice as it crossed a main road, gouging deep holes in the pavement, then rocketed into the front yard of a one-story white brick home. The boulder smashed into the front door and exited out the back — taking out everything in between.

Despite the devastation, few here said they would consider leaving. They would shake it off, clean up and move on with their lives.

On Thursday, Jean Smith stood in her shattered living room staring out at the turquoise harbor, a sea-filled crater from an ancient volcanic eruption that serves as the main deep-water port for the Christchurch region.

"We're going to rebuild, but it's going to take a long time," she said. "A long, long time."

Outside, another aftershock rattled the earth. Inside, Tom and Jean continued to pick up the pieces.

Quake in New Zealand kills at least 65
Washington Times
By Joe Morgan, Associated Press
5:37 a.m., Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — A powerful earthquake struck one of New Zealand's biggest cities Tuesday at the height of a busy workday, toppling tall buildings and churches, crushing buses and killing at least 65 people in one of the country's worst natural disasters.

It was the second major quake to hit Christchurch, a city of 350,000, in five months, though Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude temblor caused far more destruction than a stronger September quake that struck before dawn on a weekend. More than 100 people, including as many as a dozen visiting Japanese students, were thought to be trapped in the rubble as darkness — and drizzling rain — fell Tuesday night.

"It is just a scene of utter devastation," Prime Minister John Key said after rushing to the city within hours of the quake. He said the death toll was 65, and may rise. "We may well be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day."

The spire of the city's well-known stone cathedral toppled into a central square, while multistory buildings collapsed in on themselves and streets were strewn with bricks and shattered concrete.

Sidewalks and roads were cracked and split, while thousands of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens and car alarms blared. Ambulance services were quickly overwhelmed, and groups of people helped victims clutching bleedings wounds, and others were carried to private vehicles in makeshift stretchers fashioned from rugs or bits of debris.

Nathanael Boehm, a web designer, said he was standing near a tram track when the quake struck just before 1 p.m., sending the eaves of buildings cascading onto the street below.

"It was horrific. People were covered in rubble, covered in several tons of concrete," Boehm said, adding that he believed some of them had been crushed to death.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker declared a state of emergency and ordered people to evacuate the city center. He said it was impossible to say how many people were trapped in the rubble, but that it was estimated to be more than 100.

"The government is willing to throw everything it can in the rescue effort," Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said. "Time is going to be of essence."

Troops were deployed to help people get out and to throw up a security cordon around the stricken area, and residents throughout the city were urged to stay home or with neighbors and conserve water and food.

The airport was closed, and Christchurch Hospital was briefly evacuated before reopening. Power and telephone lines were knocked out, and pipes burst, flooding the streets with water. Some cars parked on the street were buried under rubble.

Police said reports of fatalities included people in two buses that had been crushed by falling buildings.

During hours of chaos in the city, people dug through rubble with their hands to free people trapped. Firefighters climbed extension ladders to pluck people stranded on roofs to safety. A crane lifted a team of rescuers on a platform to one group of survivors in a high-rise. Plumes of gray smoke drifted into the air at several points around the city from fires burning in the rubble.

Parker said rescue teams including sniffer dogs were fanning out across the city and would work through the night.

Officials had established relief centers in schools and community halls, where food was being served to thousands of sheltering people and donated blankets were being handed out. In at least one park in the city, people — many of them tourists who had abandoned their hotels — huddled in hastily pitched tents and under plastic sheeting. The Red Cross was working to secure accommodation for them.

Key, who held an emergency Cabinet meeting then rushed to the stricken city to observe the scene, said eight or nine buildings had collapsed, and others were badly damaged.

Some of those stuck were thought to be visiting Japanese students who called their parents back home to say they were in a collapsed building, a Japanese official said. Nine students and two teachers from the Toyama College of Foreign Languages had been rescued, but another 12 students were unaccounted for and could still be trapped, said the official from Toyama Prefecture, who declined to provide his name because he was not authorized to give public statements.

Others were also able to call out using their mobile phones, reaching family, officials, and media.

"I rang my kids to say goodbye," said Ann Voss, interviewed by TV3 from underneath her desk where she was trapped in a collapsed office building. "It was absolutely horrible. My daughter was crying and I was crying because I honestly thought that was it. You know, you want to tell them you love them don't you?"

She said she could hear other people still alive in the building, and had called out to them and communicated by knocking on rubble.

"I'm not going to give up," she said. "I'm going to stay awake now. They better come and get me."

Gary Moore said he and 19 other colleagues were trapped in their twelfth floor office after the stairwell collapsed in the quake.

"We watched the cathedral collapse out our window while we were holding onto the walls," Moore said. "Every aftershock sends us rushing under the desks. It's very unnerving but we can clearly see there are other priorities out the window. There has been a lot of damage and I guess people are attending to that before they come and get us."

The multistory Pyne Gould Guinness Building, housing more than 200 workers, collapsed and an unknown number of people were trapped inside. Television pictures showed rescuers, many of them office workers, dragging severely injured people from the rubble. Many had blood streaming down their faces. Screams could be heard from those still trapped.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor was centered 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the city at a depth of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). Two large aftershocks — one magnitude 5.6 and another 5.5 — hit the city within two hours. It was felt across a large part of the South Island, and caused damage in nearby towns. The extent of damage elsewhere wasn't immediately clear.

"When the shaking had stopped I looked out of the window, which gives a great view onto Christchurch, and there was just dust," said city councilman Barry Corbett, who was on one of the top floors of the city council building when the quake struck. "It was evident straight away that a lot of buildings had gone."

The USGS said the latest quake was part of the "aftershock sequence" following the 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Sept. 4 last year. That quake wrecked hundreds of buildings, inflicted an estimated 4 billion New Zealand dollars ($3 billion) in damage, but caused no deaths.

A strong aftershock in December caused further damage to buildings. The city, considered a tourist center, was still rebuilding from those quakes when Tuesday's temblor hit.

The USGS said the latest quake hit "significantly closer to the main population center of Christchurch" than the September quake, which was centered 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of city.

"The critical issue with this earthquake was that the epicenter was at shallow depth under Christchurch, so many people were within 10 to 20 kilometers (6 to 12 miles) of the fault rupture," said Gary Gibson, a seismologist at Australia's Melbourne University.

New Zealand's worst earthquake was one that struck in 1931 at Hawke's Bay on the country's North Island, which killed at least 256 people.

New Zealand at the edge of "Ring of Fire"

21 February 2011 Last updated at 22:05 ET
'Deaths' after quake hits Christchurch in New Zealand
Brendan Burns, MP for Christchurch Central: "The situation is pretty desperate"

Multiple fatalities have been reported after a powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island, police say.  The tremor, which hit at 1251 (2351 GMT on Monday) only 10km (6.2 miles) south-east of the city at a depth of 5km (3.1 miles), caused widespread destruction.  The fire service said numerous people were trapped in buildings, while the mayor said there was "great confusion".

The damage is said to be far worse than after September's 7.1-magnitude quake.

Two people were seriously injured by the tremor, whose epicentre was further away and deeper. It caused an estimated $3bn in damage.

There have been several aftershocks since last September's quake, with a 4.9 magnitude tremor hitting just after Christmas.

'Very black day'

TV pictures of the aftermath of Tuesday's earthquake showed several collapsed buildings in the centre of Christchurch.  People could be seen wandering the rubble-filled streets in distress.  Local police said there were reports of multiple fatalities, including that two buses had been crushed by falling buildings.  There were also reports of fires and of numerous people being trapped in collapsed buildings, they added. Witnesses said up to 150 people alone were feared trapped inside the Pyne Gould Guinness building.

Local television showed bodies being pulled out of rubble strewn around the city centre. It was not known if they were alive.  Christchurch Cathedral, an iconic stone building in the centre of the city, was partly destroyed, its spire toppling into the square below.

"I was in the square right outside the cathedral - the whole front has fallen down and there were people running from there - there were people inside as well," John Gurr, a camera technician, told the Reuters news agency. "Colombo Street, the main street, is just a mess."

Radio New Zealand reported that its staff had to cling to their desks during the tremor, and that a church near its offices had collapsed.  Concrete in Victoria Square had risen at least a metre in some places and there are signs of liquefaction around the Avon river, RNZ added.  Power and telephone lines were knocked out, and pipes burst, flooding the streets with water.

There is also a shortage of ambulances, so private vehicles are being used to ferry the injured to triage centres. Initial reports said the main hospital had been evacuated, but this was later denied by the police.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said he was on the top floor of the city council building when the quake hit, throwing him across the room.

"I got down onto the street and there were scenes of great confusion, a lot of very upset people," he said. "What I can see from where I am in the central city is that there are significant amounts of additional damage."

"Make no mistake - this is going to be a very black day for this shaken city," he added.

Christopher Stent said Christchurch's roads were gridlocked with people trying to flee the city as the authorities have instructed.

"The whole house shook... it looks a bit like a bombsite," he told the BBC. "My whole body felt like it was out of control."

Prime Minister John Key told parliament that the reports from Christchurch had spoken of "significant damage".

"The worrying fear, of course, is that this earthquake has taken place at a time when people were going about their business - it is a very populated time, with people at work, children at school. Sadly, I cannot rule out that there have been fatalities."

The military was later called in by the government to assist the rescue effort.  National Civil Defence Controller David Coetzee said "significant" aftershocks should now be expected.  New Zealand lies at the southern end of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, and above an area of the Earth's crust where the Pacific Plate converges with the Indo-Australian Plate.  The country experiences more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which only around 20 have a magnitude in excess of 5.0.

The last fatal earthquake was in 1968, when a 7.1-magnitude tremor killed three people on the South Island's western coast.

Strong quake hits New Zealand, causing injuries
By STEVE McMORRAN, Associated Press
21 Feb. 2011

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A powerful earthquake hit the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Tuesday, collapsing buildings, burying vehicles under debris and sending rescuers scrambling to help trapped people amid reports of multiple deaths

Police said they were trying to confirm the early reports of multiple fatalities from the 6.3-magnitude quake, the second major temblor to strike the city since last September, while Prime Minister John Key told Parliament details still were too shaky to confirm deaths.

Witnesses said the quake destroyed the iconic stone Christchurch Cathedral, its spire toppled into a central city square, and there were reports of two buses crushed under falling buildings.

Live video footage showed parts of buildings collapsed into the streets, strewn with bricks and hattered concrete. Sidewalks and roads were cracked and split, and thousands of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker declared a state of emergency and ordered people to evacuate the city center.

"Make no mistake — this is going to be a very black day for this shaken city," he said when asked about possible deaths.

The airport was closed and Christchurch Hospital was evacuated. Power and telephone lines were knocked out, and pipes burst, flooding the streets with water. Some cars apparently parked on the street were buried under rubble.

Some people were stuck in office towers and firefighters climbed ladders to pluck people trapped on roofs to safety.

"The details we have are extremely sketchy," the prime minister told Parliament. "The worrying fear, of course, is that this earthquake has taken place at a time when people were going about their business — it is a very populated time, with people at work, children at school. Sadly, I cannot rule out that there have been fatalities.

"But we are aware of significant damage to buildings that had people in them at the time," he said.

Key said people were being told to get out of the city for their safety.

Other officials said there were unconfirmed reports of deaths from the earthquake.

New Zealand police said in a statement that there were reports of multiple fatalities in the city, including a report that two buses had been crushed by falling buildings. The police statement said there were other reports of fires burning in the city and people being trapped in buildings.

Gary Moore said he and 19 other colleagues were trapped in their twelfth floor office after the stairwell collapsed in the quake. He did not know if people on other floors were trapped.

"We watched the cathedral collapse out our window while we were holding onto the walls," Moore said. "Every aftershock sends us rushing under the desks. It's very unnerving but we can clearly see there are other priorities out the window. There has been a lot of damage and I guess people are attending to that before they come and get us."

The Pyne Gould Guinness Building, a multistory building containing more than 200 workers, has collapsed and an unknown number of people are trapped inside. Television pictures showed rescuers, many of them office workers, dragging severely injured people from the rubble. Many had blood streaming down their faces. Screams could be heard from those still trapped.

Parker, the mayor, said he was on the top floor of the city council building when the quake hit just before 1 p.m. local time, throwing him across the room.

"I got down onto the street and there were scenes of great confusion, a lot of very upset people," he said. "I know of people in our building who are injured and I've had some reports of serious injuries throughout the city."

The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor was centered 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the city at a depth of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). A 5.6-magnitude aftershock hit shortly after 7 miles (11 kilometers) east of the city at a depth of 3.7 miles (6 kilometers).

"When the shaking had stopped I looked out of the window, which gives a great view onto Christchurch, and there was just dust," said city councilman Barry Corbett, who was on one of the top floors of the city council building when the quake struck. "It was evident straight away that a lot of buildings had gone."

Christchurch has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks since a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Sept. 4 last year, causing extensive damage and a handful of injuries, but no deaths.

The city is home to about 350,000 people and is considered a tourist center and gateway to the South Island.

New Zealand sits on the Pacific "ring of fire" — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching from Chile in South America through Alaska and down through the South Pacific. It records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year — but only about 150 are felt by residents, and fewer than 10 a year do any damage.

The Sept. 4 quake wrecked hundreds of buildings in the city, and caused an estimated 4 billion New Zealand dollars ($3 billion) in damage. A strong aftershock in December caused further damage to buildings.

The city was still rebuilding from those quakes when Tuesday's temblor hit.

Powerful 7.1 quake hits New Zealand's South Island

By RAY LILLEY, Associated Press Writer

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck much of New Zealand's South Island early Saturday and caused widespread damage, but there were just two reports of serious injuries. Looters broke into some damaged shops in Christchurch, police said.  The quake, which hit 19 miles (30 kilometers) west of the southern city of Christchurch according to the state geological agency GNS Science, shook a wide area, with some residents saying buildings had collapsed and power was severed. No tsunami alert was issued.

GNS Science initially reported the quake as magnitude 7.4, but later downgraded it after re-examining quake records. The U.S. Geological Survey, in America, measured the quake at 7.0.  Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker declared a state of emergency four hours after the quake rocked the region, warning people that continuing aftershocks could cause masonry to fall from damaged buildings.  The emergency meant parts of the city would be closed off and some buildings closed as unsafe, he said.

Minister of Civil Defense John Carter said a state of civil emergency was declared as the quake was "a significant disaster," and army troops were on standby to assist.

Parker said the "sharp, vicious earthquake has caused significant damage in parts of the city ... with walls collapsed that have fallen into the streets."

Chimneys and walls had fallen from older buildings, with roads blocked, traffic lights out and power, gas and water supplies disrupted, he said.

"The fronts of at least five buildings in the central city have collapsed and rubble is strewn across many roads," Christchurch resident Angela Morgan told The Associated Press.

"Roads have subsided where water mains have broken and a lot of people evacuated in panic from seaside areas for fear of a tsunami," she said, adding that "there is quite significant damage, really, with reports that some people were trapped in damaged houses."

Christchurch fire service spokesman Mike Bowden said a number of people had been trapped in buildings by fallen chimneys and blocked entrances, but there were no reports of people pinned under rubble. Rescue teams were out checking premises.  Christchurch Hospital said it had treated two men with serious injuries and a number of people with minor injuries.  One man was hit by a falling chimney and was in serious condition in intensive care, while a second was badly cut by glass, hospital spokeswoman Michele Hider said.

Christchurch police reported road damage in parts of the city of 400,000 people, with a series of sharp aftershocks rocking the area. Police officers cordoned off some streets where rubble was strewn about. Video showed parked cars crushed by heaps of fallen bricks, and buckled roads.

"There is considerable damage in the central city and we've also had reports of looting, just shop windows broken and easy picking of displays," Police Inspector Mike Coleman told New Zealand's National Radio.

Police Inspector Alf Stewart told the radio that some people had been arrested for looting.

"We have some reports of people smashing (storefront) windows and trying to grab some property that is not theirs ... we've got police on the streets and we're dealing with that," he said.

Suburban dweller Mark O'Connell said his house was full of smashed glass, food tossed from shelves, with sets of drawers, TVs and computers tipped over.

"She was a beauty, we were thrown from wall to wall as we tried to escape down the stairs to get to safety," he told the AP. "It was pitch black (with the power cut) and we walked through smashed glass everywhere on the floor."

The quake hit at 4:35 a.m. (1635 GMT) shaking thousands of residents awake, New Zealand's National Radio reported. Some 12 aftershocks have rocked the region since, ranging from 5.3 to 3.9 in magnitude, GNS Science reported on its web site.  Prime Minister John Key, Carter and Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee were to fly to Christchurch to inspect damage and review the situation, officials said.

Civil defense agency spokesman David Millar said at least six bridges in the region had been badly damaged, while the historic Empire hotel in the port town of Lyttelton was "very unstable" and in danger of collapse. Roads, shops and other buildings in rural towns around Christchurch had also suffered damage, with some shop fronts knocked down in the jolt.

Inspector Coleman said residents of the city's low-lying eastern suburbs had been advised to be ready to evacuate their properties, after power, gas, sewerage and water systems were cut by the quake.  Resident Colleen Simpson said panicked residents ran into the street in their pajamas. Some buildings had collapsed, there was no power, and the mobile telephone network had failed.

"Oh my God. There is a row of shops completely demolished right in front of me," Simpson told the Stuff news Web site.

Kiwirail rail transport group spokesman Kevin Ramshaw said 13 mostly freight trains had been halted on South Island lines, with some damage already confirmed to rail lines north of Christchurch.

Christchurch International Airport was closed after the quake as a precaution, as experts checked runways and terminal buildings, a spokesman said.  The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said "no destructive widespread tsunami threat existed, based on historical earthquake and tsunami data."

New Zealand sits above an area of the Earth's crust where two tectonic plates collide. The country records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year — but only about 150 are felt by residents. Fewer than 10 a year do any damage.  New Zealand's last major earthquake was a magnitude 7.8 in South Island's Fiordland region on July 16, 2009 — a tremblor which moved the southern tip of the country 12 inches (30 centimeters) closer to Australia, seismologist Ken Gledhill said at the time.

Gledhill, director of GNS Science's "GeoNet" national earthquake monitoring project, said the island's geographic shift showed the immensity of the forces involved.

Strong earthquake rocks New Zealand's South Island
3 September 2010 Last updated at 13:12 ET

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake has struck off New Zealand's South Island, the US Geological Survey has said.  The epicentre was 30km (20 miles) north-west of Christchurch, at a depth of 16.1 km (10 miles), it added.

There have so far been no reports of any damage or casualties. Christchurch is New Zealand's third largest city with a population of about 342,000.  The Pacific Tsunami Warning centre has reportedly said that "no destructive widespread tsunami threat" exists.  The Christchurch-based newspaper, The Press, said aftershocks were ongoing and that the electricity supply appeared to have been knocked out across much of the city.

The earthquake struck at 0435 on Saturday (1635 GMT on Friday), when most people would have been asleep.

Minor earthquake rattles the D.C. area
Washington Times
8:03 a.m., Friday, July 16, 2010
WASHINGTON (AP) — A minor earthquake shook residents awake in the DC area early Friday.  The quake hit at 5:04 a.m. EDT and had a magnitude of 3.6.  The quake was centered in the Rockville, Md., area said Randy Baldwin, a physicist with U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center.  Police in Washington and in nearby Montgomery County, Md., said there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

On the U.S. Geological Survey's website, people as far away as Pennsylvania and West Virginia reported feeling the quake.  Lucille Baur, public information officer for the Montgomery County Police Department, said the department received a lot of calls from people wondering what had happened.

Debby Taylor Busse said she was in the basement of her home in Vienna, Va., in Fairfax County when she felt the quake hit. She was already awake watching television, but her husband had been asleep in a second-floor bedroom when the tremor woke him.

"I didn't know what it was," Busse said. "I have never been in an earthquake before. It felt like an airplane going overhead or thunder, but it wasn't coming from above."

She said it lasted just a few seconds and compared it to a strong thunder strike — enough to rattle the house, but not enough to knock anything over.  Brett Snyder, who lives in Gaithersburg, Md., told AP Radio he was awakened by the quake but said it wasn't a big deal.

"It happened very instantaneously and then off to a day's work," Snyder said.

In the neighborhood of G-20 (Toronto)...
Rare earthquake shakes Ottawa, Montreal
23 June 2010

OTTAWA (AFP) – A strong earthquake shook Ottawa and Montreal in eastern Canada on Wednesday, forcing office workers out onto downtown streets in the nation's capital.

The US Geological Survey reported the temblor of a magnitude of 5.5 hit the Ontario-Quebec border area at 1741 GMT, rattling downtown Ottawa shortly after midday.

The USGS said the epicenter was 61 kilometers (38 miles) north of Ottawa.

AFP journalists witnessed walls in downtown office buildings shaking for several seconds. Cracks appeared in the Parliamentary Press Gallery building in Ottawa, and outside some people appeared shaken up, but unhurt.

Most downtown Ottawa buildings appeared to have been evacuated as alarms rang out.

James Bowden, a former resident of Alaska who experienced several earthquakes in the US state, was standing in line at a fast-food restaurant on Ottawa's Sparks Street when he said he "heard the earthquake coming a few seconds before it hit."

"It sounded like a freight train barreling towards us," he said.

An avid reader of earthquake sciences, Bowden said Ottawa experiences earthquakes every four or five years. "This one was fairly big," he said.

Several dozen much weaker earthquakes, linked to the Logan faultline along the Saint Lawrence seaway, strike in Quebec province each year.

The last major quake, of a magnitude 6.0, struck in 1988 in the Saguenay region, about 500 kilometers north of Montreal.

5.7 quake rattles California-Mexico border
Washington Times
8:48 a.m., Tuesday, June 15, 2010

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S.-Mexico border in California was rocked by a magnitude-5.7 earthquake Monday night, rattling nerves in a region still recovering from the deadly Easter jolt.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered five miles southeast of Ocotillo in Imperial County — about 85 miles east of San Diego. It struck Monday at 9:26 p.m. PDT.

The quake was an aftershock of the deadly Easter Sunday magnitude-7.2 quake that shook Baja California and Southern California, said Egill Hauksson, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He said the epicenter of Monday's quake occurred in the same zone of the quake in April.

"Aftershocks can go on for months and years," he said.

Thousands of aftershocks have occurred since the Easter earthquake. More than 100 aftershocks were recorded immediately following Monday's 5.7 quake, with the largest measuring at magnitude-4.5.

A 5.7-magnitude earthquake "could break windows, it could throw things on the floor, it could create cracks on the wall, but we don't expect things to collapse," Mr. Hauksson said.

San Diego County Office of Emergency Services had no reports of significant damage. Louis Fuentes, chairman of the Imperial County board of supervisors, also said he had no immediate reports of damage.

"As soon as it hit, my wife said, 'Grab the baby.' My daughter ran out to the back yard," said Mr. Fuentes, who was in his garage in Calexico, about 30 miles east of the epicenter. "It thumped really hard."

Mr. Fuentes said his chandeliers swayed at his home and metal objects banged but nothing fell off the shelves. Imperial County suffered significant damage in April's Easter Sunday quake.

"All the lamps, the liquor bottles and the TV hanging from the ceiling shook, but nothing dropped," said Marina Garcia, an employee at the Burgers and Beer restaurant in El Centro, about 30 miles east of Ocotillo.

The quake was felt as a gentle rolling motion in the Los Angeles area.

San Diego's Petco Park swayed during the quake, causing a momentary pause at the Toronto Blue Jays-San Diego Padres game. The public address announcer asked that everyone remain calm. The crowd cheered.

David Eckstein of the Padres had just grounded out in the bottom of the inning when the stadium began shaking. The next batter, Chase Headley, stayed out of the batter's box for a few seconds, then stepped in.

San Diego County sheriff's dispatch supervisor Becky Strahm said some of her colleagues reported things falling off their shelves, but there were no immediate reports of significant damage or injury.

The quake followed a series of temblors that struck Southern California over the weekend, including a pair of moderate earthquakes that rattled a desert area east of San Diego. Residents in downtown San Diego felt the ground rumbling during at least one of the Saturday quakes.

Associated Press Sports Writer Bernie Wilson in San Diego and Associated Press writers Alicia Chang, Daisy Nguyen and Denise Petski in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Quake in western China kills 400, buries more
By GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press Writer
14 April 2010

BEIJING – A series of strong earthquakes struck a mountainous Tibetan area of western China on Wednesday, killing at least 400 people and injuring more than 10,000 as houses made of mud and wood collapsed, officials said. Many more people were trapped and the toll was expected to rise.

The largest quake was recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey as magnitude 6.9. In the aftermath, panicked people, many bleeding from their wounds, flooded the streets of a Qinghai province township where most of the homes had been flattened. Students were reportedly buried inside several damaged schools.

Paramilitary police used shovels to dig through the rubble in the town, footage on state television showed. Officials said excavators were not available and with most of the roads leading to the nearest airport damaged, equipment and rescuers would have a hard time reaching the area. Hospitals were overwhelmed, many lacking even the most basic supplies, and doctors were in short supply.

Downed phone lines, strong winds and frequent aftershocks also hindered rescue efforts, said Wu Yong, commander of the local army garrison, who said the death toll "may rise further as lots of houses collapsed."

With many people forced outside, the provincial government said it was rushing 5,000 tents and 100,000 coats and blankets to the mountainous region, at around 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) -high and where night time temperatures plunge below freezing.

Workers were racing to release water from a reservoir in the disaster area where a crack had formed after the quake to prevent a flood, according to the China Earthquake Administration...full story here.

Strong quake kills 2 in Mexico, rattles US states
April 5, 2010

TIJUANA, Mexico – A powerful earthquake swayed buildings from Los Angeles to Tijuana, killing two people in Mexico, blacking out cities and forcing the evacuation of hospitals and nursing homes. One California city closed off its downtown due to unstable buildings.  The 7.2-magnitude quake centered just south of the U.S. border near Mexicali was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit region in decades.

"It sounds like it's felt by at least 20 million people," USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said. "Most of Southern California felt this earthquake."

Sunday afternoon's earthquake hit hardest in Mexicali, a bustling commerce center along Mexico's border with California, where authorities said the quake was followed by many smaller aftershocks, including five with magnitudes between 5.0 and 5.4. The initial quake had a shallow depth of 6 miles (10 kilometers).

"It has not stopped trembling in Mexicali," said Baja California state Civil Protection Director Alfredo Escobedo...see story below from earlier.

See above for story the next morning...
Magnitude 6.9 quake strikes Baja California

By CHRISTOPHER WEBER, Associated Press Writer
4 April 2010

LOS ANGELES – A strong earthquake south of the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday swayed high-rises in downtown Los Angeles and San Diego and was felt across Southern California and Arizona, but there were no immediate reports of major damage.  The 6.9 magnitude quake struck at 3:40 p.m. in Baja California, Mexico, about 19 miles southeast of Mexicali, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The area was hit by magnitude-3.0 quakes all week.

The quake was felt as far north as Santa Barbara, USGS seismologist Susan Potter said.

Strong shaking was reported in the Coachella Valley and Riverside, Calif. The earthquake rattled buildings on the west side of Los Angeles and in the San Fernando Valley, interrupting Easter dinners. Chandeliers swayed and wine jiggled in glasses.  In Los Angeles, the city fire department went on "earthquake status," and some stalled elevators were reported. No damage was reported in Los Angeles or San Diego.

One woman called firefighters and said she was stuck in an elevator descending from the 34th floor in a building in Century City, but there was no way to immediately know if the breakdown was tied the quake, Los Angeles firefighter Eric Scott said.  The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says there are no power outages anywhere in the city, spokeswoman Maryanne Pierson said.

The quake was felt for about 40 seconds in Tijuana, Mexico, causing buildings to sway and knocking out power in parts of the city. Families celebrating Easter ran out of the homes, with children screaming and crying.  Baja California state Civil Protection Director Alfredo Escobedo said there were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage. But he said the assessment was ongoing.  In the Phoenix area, Jacqueline Land said her king-sized bed in her second-floor apartment felt like a boat gently swaying on the ocean.

"I thought to myself, 'That can't be an earthquake. I'm in Arizona,'" the Northern California native said. "And I thought, 'Oh my God, I feel like I'm 9 years old.'"

A police dispatcher in Yuma, Ariz., said the quake was very strong there, but no damage was reported. The Yuma County Sheriff's Office had gotten a few calls, mostly from alarm companies because of alarms going off.  Mike Wong, who works at a journalism school in downtown Phoenix, said he was in his second-floor office getting some work done Sunday afternoon when he heard sounds and felt the building start to sway.

"I heard some cracking sounds, like Rice Krispies," coming from the building, he said. "I didn't think much of it, but I kept hearing it, and then I started feeling a shake. I thought, 'You know what? I think that might be an earthquake."

Wong said the swaying lasted for "just a few seconds," and he didn't notice any damage.  An earthquake also hit in Northern California Sunday afternoon. The U.S. Geological Survey says a quake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.0 was recorded at 3:49 p.m. about 25 miles north of Santa Rosa.

A dispatcher with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department said the agency had not received any calls for service after the quake.

6.9 magnitude quake hits southeastern Russia: USGS
27 December 2011

(Reuters) - An earthquake of 6.9 magnitude hit southeastern Russia near the border with Mongolia on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter of the quake was 28 miles deep and was about 57 miles northeast of Kyzyl, Russia, USGS said.

Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Strong earthquake hits eastern Turkey

The injured were ferried to hospital with the help of relatives

A strong earthquake has struck eastern Turkey, killing at least 57 people, officials have said.

The 6.0-magnitude quake, centred on the village of Basyurt in Elazig province, struck at 0432 (0232 GMT). It has been followed by more than 40 aftershocks.

Officials said the nearby village of Okcular had been almost destroyed and several others badly damaged.

A number of people were trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings, many of which were built of mud-bricks.

"Villages consisting mainly of mud-brick houses have been damaged, but we have minimal damage such as cracks in buildings made of cement or stone," Elazig Governor Muammer Erol told CNN Turk.

At least 17 of the dead came from the hillside village of Okcular, where up to 30 houses collapsed, rescuers said.

"The village is totally flattened," Okcular's administrator, Hasan Demirdag, told NTV.

Television footage from Okcular showed rescue workers and soldiers digging among the rubble of collapsed buildings as villagers looked on.

Ali Riza Ferhat, a resident, said he had been asleep in his home when the earthquake struck.

"I tried to get out of the door but it wouldn't open. I came out of the window and started helping my neighbours," he told NTV. "We removed six bodies."

The nearby villages of Yukari Kanatli, Kayalik, Gocmezler and Yukari Demirci were also badly damaged and each reported several deaths.
Map showing Turkey quake location

"Everything has been knocked down - there is not a stone in place," Yadin Apaydin, the administrator for Yukari Kanatli, told CNN Turk.

At least 50 people have been taken to hospital, officials say. Some were reportedly hurt during the panic after the first earthquake, when they jumped from windows or balconies.

Residents of the affected villages have been warned not to return to damaged homes while the area continues to be hit by aftershocks, the strongest of which have so far measured 5.1 and 5.5.

The government disaster management centre and Turkish Red Crescent have set up tents to help survivors cope with the harsh winter weather, and are also distributing food and blankets.

Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek and three other ministers have travelled to the earthquake zone to provide assistance.
Elderly woman stands next to her collapsed home (8 March 2010)

In Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lamented the lack of earthquake-safe buildings and said he had ordered the start of a reconstruction project in the area.

"Mud-brick construction is undoubtedly a local tradition. But unfortunately, it has proved to have a heavy price," he said.

A BBC News website reader who visited the village of Basyurt after the earthquake said its residents blamed the government for the destruction and loss of life.

"This is a seismic area. We've experienced so many earthquakes in the last 20 years, yet no measures have been taken to strengthen the buildings," Volkan Durkal said.

"Most houses are not made with cement, they are not well-built and the people are not well-educated about what to do and where to take cover during an earthquake."

Turkey is plagued by earthquakes - generally minor - because of its location on the North Anatolian fault line.

A 7.4-magnitude tremor which hit the western city of Izmit in August 1999 killed more than 17,000 people.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul says poor quality buildings were also blamed for the high death toll then and there is still concern in Turkey's largest city, where seismologists predict a major earthquake will occur within the next few decades.

Earthquake shakes Chile, no injuries reported
Sun Jan 2, 2011 9:58 pm ET

SANTIAGO (AFP) – A strong earthquake shook coastal Chile, disrupting power and communications services but caused no injuries or significant damage, authorities said, as tsunami fears led residents to seek higher ground.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Sunday at 2020 GMT 69 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of Temuco, Chile, at a depth of 16 kilometers (10 miles).

Chile's National Emergency Office said the quake was "medium intensity" and struck Biobio, Maule and O'Higgins, a region in south-central Chile that was devastated by a 8.8 magnitude quake and tsunami in February 2010.

"Fortunately we have no accidents to lament, nor loss of life, nor major damage," said President Sebastian Pinera.

"All the services functioned normally. There were some partial power outages, there were some moments when telephone lines were saturated, but all the systems functioned normally except for these bottlenecks."

The emergency response agency's director Vicente Nunez told reporters that power outages and interruptions in telephone service were common in these cases.

The earthquake set off panicky reactions, however, with people fleeing to higher ground in Puerto Saavedra and Tirua out of fear of tsunamis, according to Chilean television.

Television images showed shoppers scrambling to get out of supermarkets and shopping centers when the quake hit.

But Pinera said people displayed calm in evacuating the coastal area near the quake's epicenter.

"They reacted swiftly and in keeping with what is required in these situations," he said.

The Chilean Navy's Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service discounted the threat of a tsunami, saying the epicenter was on land and not at sea.

An initial report by the USGS said the quake occurred offshore, but it later revised its findings. US authorities also ruled out the threat of a Pacific-wide tsunami.

"Based on all available data, a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a bulletin.

"However, earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a hundred kilometers (62 miles) of the earthquake epicenter," it said.

The National Emergency Office said Sunday's temblor was followed nearly two hours later by a moderate aftershock.

The earthquake was also felt in Argentina's Patagonia region, near the border with Chile, especially in San Martin de los Andes, where dozens of people ran out of the customs building fearing it might collapse, the Bariloche News Agency said.

No injuries or damage from the quake were reported in Argentina.

Chile lies on the Pacific rim of fire and is prone to violent earthquakes. Last February's massive earthquake unleashed a tsunami that swept away entire villages.

The disaster left around 520 people dead, and caused an estimated 30 billion dollars in damage.

There were differing opinions Sunday over whether the latest quake and last year's disaster were related.

"This Sunday's quake was in keeping with the country's tectonic behavior, and has no relation to the quake on Feburary 27," said Nunez of the National Emergency Office.

But Sergio Barrientos, director of the Seismological Service at the University of Chile, told Chilean television, "An 8.8 magnitude quake will generate aftershocks for several years."

Biggest aftershock hits Chile on inauguration day
By MICHAEL WARREN, Associated Press Writer
March 11, 2010

SANTIAGO, Chile – The largest aftershock since Chile's devastating earthquake rocked the South American country Thursday minutes before the inauguration of President Sebastian Pinera.

The 7.2-magnitude aftershock was stronger than the Jan. 12 quake that devastated the Haitian capital. It happened along the same fault zone as Chile's magnitude-8.8 quake on Feb. 27, said geophysicist Don Blakeman at the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado.

"When we get quakes in the 8 range, we would expect to see maybe a couple of aftershocks in the 7 range," he said.

Blakeman said Chile now can expect to feel "aftershocks of the aftershock."

"It's not a sign of anything different happening. But what does occur when you get these large aftershocks, typically we have a whole series of aftershocks again," Blakeman said.

The temblor rocked buildings and shook windows in the capital, and provoked nervous smiles among dignitaries arriving for the ceremony at the congressional building in coastal Valparaiso. Bolivian President Evo Morales seemed briefly disoriented and Peru's Alan Garcia joked that it gave them "a moment to dance."

Buildings emptied and streets crowded with people seeking higher ground in coastal Constitucion, a city wiped out by the tsunami that followed the quake. Pinera planned to visit the city shortly after his swearing-in.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Two strongly felt earthquakes have rocked central Chile as dignitaries arrive for the inauguration of President-elect Sebastian Pinera.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the first quake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 and the second registered at 7.2. Both rocked buildings in the capital, shook windows and provoked nervous smiles among dignitaries arriving for Thursday's ceremony at the congressional building in coastal Valparaiso.

Bolivian President Evo Morales seemed briefly disoriented. Peru's Alan Garcia joked that it gave them "a moment to dance."

Strong aftershocks hit quake-stunned Chile
By MICHAEL WARREN and EVA VERGARIA, Associated Press Writer
March 5, 2010

CONCEPCION, Chile – The most powerful aftershock in six days sent terrified Chileans fleeing into quake-shattered streets and forced doctors to evacuate some patients from a major hospital on Friday as the nation struggled to comprehend the scope of the disaster that hit it.

People raced into the streets in pajamas as a magnitude-6.0 aftershock struck Concepcion shortly before dawn.  A magnitude-6.6 shock at 8:47 a.m. (6:47 a.m. EST; 1147 GMT) then rattled buildings for nearly a minute.  It was the strongest aftershock since a magnitude-6.9 jolt shortly after Saturday's historic quake and it sent office chairs spilling from upper floor of an already-damaged 22-story building.

Fear of additional damage led officials to evacuate some patients from the regional hospital in downtown Concepcion.

"They sent us all home," said 47-year-old Aaron Valenzuela, who hobbled through the street because four toes had been amputated due to an injury he suffered in Saturday's big quake.

Dr. Patricia Correa, who was overseeing the hospital's emergency ward, said her part of the five-story building "is on the point of collapsing. The walls cracked."

As a daily curfew meant to halt looting expired at noon, people flooded into the streets of Concepcion and formed lines about 100 long behind an intermittently functioning automatic teller machine, for a rare open pharmacy and at a corner store.  A sign at the shop announced it was out of flour, water, candles, rice, cheese, eggs and diapers, though jam, sugar, coffee and onions remained.  President Michelle Bachelet, meanwhile, met with her successor, Sebastian Pinera, and they promised to try to avoid letting the March 11 hand-over of power interrupt aid efforts.

"The new government will have an immense challenge," Bachelet said.

Officials were still struggling to determine the human toll of the magnitude-8.8 quake, as well as the damage to roads, ports and buildings such as hospitals.  Disaster officials announced they had double-counted at least 271 missing as dead in the hardest-hit part of the country — an error that would drop the official death toll to about 540 if there were no other mistakes.

But Interior Department officials said that from now on, they would release only the number of dead who had been identified: 279 as of Friday.

The government also said Friday it had removed Cmdr. Mariano Rojas as head of the Navy's oceanographic service over its failure to issue a tsunami warning for the Pacific immediately after Saturday's quake.  Port captains in several towns issued their own warnings, but a national alert never came, and some say that failure led to deaths. The tsunami is believed responsible for much of the deaths and damage.  Bachelet says it will take three years to rebuild the region wracked by the earthquake and tsunami, and that task is all too clear to the people trying to clean up the ruins of their towns.

In the tourist town of Dichato, a few kilometers (miles) north up the coast from Concepcion, the quake and tsunami killed at least 19 people and smashed neat wooden houses and small hotels into huge piles of splinters.  The town of 4,000 people stank Thursday of decomposing fish and a fishing boat marooned far inland was full of rotting octopus.

Bachelet's government had made a difference in the town before the quake, building 130 neat mustard-yellow duplexes in a public housing project that opened in September and providing 60 million pesos — $120,000 — to restore the facades of businesses along main street, said Mabel Gomez, president of the local chamber of commerce.  But as they rooted through the ruins, Dichato's residents said they are pinning their hopes for renewal on the next president, a conservative billionaire.

"I think he has the ability to do it," said Luis Omar Cid Jara, 66, whose bakery and roast chicken shop were destroyed.

Pinera, who takes office March 11, named new governors for the six hardest-hit regions and told them to get to work even before his inauguration. His immediate priorities: Find the missing; ensure law and order; restore utilities; and tend to the injured.  Pinera also stepped up his criticism of Bachelet's administration on Thursday, knocking "the lack of coordination and the weaknesses that this tragedy has uncovered with brutal eloquence."

Critics said Bachelet initially was reluctant to summon the military to stop looting and deliver aid, given the armed forces' brutal repression of the Chilean left in the past, especially during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.  Top military officers had complained they couldn't deploy troops to quash looting or deliver aid until Bachelet finally declared a state of emergency more than 24 hours after the temblor.

The magnitude-8.8 quake — one of the strongest on record — and the tsunami that followed ravaged a 700-kilometer (435-mile) stretch of Chile's Pacific coast.

In the coastal town of Constitucion, firefighters were looking for bodies of people swept away by the tsunami as they camped on Isla Orrego, an island in the mouth of the Maure River that flows through the city.

Constitucion suffered perhaps the greatest loss of life in the disaster, in part because many people had come for carnival celebrations and were caught in huge waves that reached the central plaza.

"There were about 200 people in tents who disappeared" on Isla Orrego, Fire Chief Miguel Reyes told The Associated Press. An AP Television News crew witnessed several bodies being recovered, including that of a baby girl washed up on the beach.

Underwater Plate Cuts 400-Mile Gash
February 27, 2010

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile early Saturday morning occurred along the same fault responsible for the biggest quake ever measured, a 1960 tremor that killed nearly 2,000 people in Chile and hundreds more across the Pacific.

Both earthquakes took place along a fault zone where the Nazca tectonic plate, the section of the earth’s crust that lies under the Eastern Pacific Ocean south of the Equator, is sliding beneath another section, the South American plate. The two are converging at a rate of about three and a half inches a year.

Earthquake experts said the strains built up by that movement, plus the stresses added along the fault zone by the 1960 quake, led to the rupture on Saturday along what is estimated to be about 400 miles of the zone, at a depth of about 22 miles under the sea floor. The quake generated a tsunami, with small surges hitting the West Coast of the United States and slightly larger ones in Hawaii and other parts of the Pacific. A 7.7-foot surge was recorded in Talcahuano, Chile.

Jian Lin, a geophysicist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said the quake occurred just north of the site of the 1960 earthquake, with very little overlap. “Most of the rupture today picked up where the 1960 rupture stopped,” said Mr. Lin, who has studied the 1960 event, which occurred along about 600 miles of the fault zone and was measured at magnitude 9.5.

Like many other large earthquakes, the 1960 quake increased stresses on adjacent parts of the fault zone, including the area where the quake occurred Saturday. Although there had been smaller quakes in the area in the ensuing 50 years, Mr. Lin said, none of them had been large enough to relieve the strain, which kept building up as the two plates converged. “This one should have released most of the stresses,” he said.

Experts said the earthquake appeared to have no connection to a magnitude 6.9 quake that struck off the southern coast of Japan late Friday evening. Nor was the Chilean event linked to the magnitude 7.0 quake that occurred in Haiti on Jan. 12.

That quake, which is believed to have killed more than 200,000 people, occurred along a strike-slip fault, in which most of the ground motion is lateral. The Chilean earthquake occurred along a thrust fault, in which most of the motion is vertical.

Mr. Lin said his calculations showed that the quake on Saturday was 250 to 350 times more powerful than the Haitian quake.

But Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., noted that at least on land, the effects of the Chilean tremor might not be as bad. “Even though this quake is larger, it’s probably not going to reap the devastation that the Haitian quake did,” he said.

For one thing, he said, the quality of building construction is generally better in Chile than in Haiti. And the fact that the quake occurred offshore should also help limit the destruction. In Haiti, the rupture occurred only a few miles from the capital, Port-au-Prince. The rupture on Saturday was centered about 60 miles from the nearest town, Chillan, and 70 miles from the country’s second-largest city, Concepción.

In many respects, Mr. Lin said, the Chilean quake is similar to the 9.0-magnitude Indonesian earthquake of Dec. 26, 2004. That quake, which also occurred along a thrust fault, generated a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people around the Indian Ocean. And like the 1960 Chilean quake, the Indonesian quake increased stresses nearby: it was followed, just three months later, by an 8.7-magnitude quake on an adjacent portion of the fault zone.

When they occur underwater, thrust-fault earthquakes like the one in Chile are far more likely to create tsunamis than quakes on strike-slip faults, said David Schwartz, an earthquake geologist with the geological survey in Menlo Park, Calif. “When they slip, the fault that causes the earthquake breaks the surface, and pushes the water up,” he said. “It pushes an awful lot of water. And that water has to go somewhere.”

The waves the quake produces travel across the ocean at high speed. Along the way, their height can be measured by buoys linked by satellite. But the height of the waves when they make landfall, and their potential for destruction, often depends on local topography and the profile of the nearby sea floor. A shallow shelf, for example, can amplify the waves.

The tsunami that was generated by the 1960 quake devastated Hilo, Hawaii, killing 61 people. Hilo is particularly vulnerable to tsunamis because its bay and narrow harbor funnel the water, increasing wave heights, which in 1960 reached 35 feet. But the tsunami also struck as far as Japan, hitting northern parts of the main island, Honshu, about a day after the quake and killing 185 people and destroying more than 1,600 homes.

Huge quake hits Chile; tsunami threatens Pacific
Feb. 27, 2010

TALCA, Chile – A devastating earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, toppling homes, collapsing bridges and plunging trucks into the fractured earth. A tsunami set off by the magnitude-8.8 quake threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.  President-elect Sebastian Pinera said more than 120 people died, but the death toll was rising quickly.  In the town of Talca, just 65 miles (105 kilometers) from the epicenter, Associated Press journalist Roberto Candia said it felt as if a giant had grabbed him and shaken him.

The town's historic center, filled with buildings of adobe mud and straw, largely collapsed, though most of those were businesses that were not inhabited during the 3:34 a.m. (1:34 a.m. EST, 0634 GMT) quake. Neighbors pulled at least five people from the rubble while emergency workers, themselves disoriented, asked for information from reporters.

Many roads were destroyed, and electricity, water and phone lines were cut to many areas — meaning there was no word of death or damage from many outlying areas.

In the Chilean capital of Santiago, 200 miles (325 kilometers) northeast of the epicenter, a car dangled from a collapsed overpass, the national Fine Arts Museum was badly damaged and an apartment building's two-story parking lot pancaked, smashing about 50 cars whose alarms rang incessantly.

Experts warned that a tsunami could strike anywhere in the Pacific, and Hawaii could face its largest waves since 1964 starting at 11:19 a.m. (4:19 p.m. EST, 2119 GMT), according to Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.  Tsunami waves were likely to hit Asian, Australian and New Zealand shores within 24 hours of the earthquake. The U.S. West Coast and Alaska, too, were threatened.

Waves 6 feet (1.8 meter) above normal hit Talcahuano near Concepcion 23 minutes after the quake, and President Michelle Bachelet said a huge wave swept into a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast, but there were no immediate reports of major damage.

Bachelet said she had no information on the number of people injured in the quake. She declared a "state of catastrophe" in central Chile.

"We have had a huge earthquake, with some aftershocks," she said from an emergency response center. She said Chile has not asked for assistance from other countries, and urged Chileans not to panic.

"The system is functioning. People should remain calm. We're doing everything we can with all the forces we have. Any information we will share immediately," she said.

Powerful aftershocks rattled Chile's coast — 29 of them magnitude 5 or greater and one reaching magnitude 6.9 — the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

In Santiago, modern buildings are built to withstand earthquakes, but many older ones were heavily damaged, including the Nuestra Senora de la Providencia church, whose bell tower collapsed. A bridge just outside the capital also collapsed, and at least one car flipped upside down.  Several hospitals were evacuated due to earthquake damage, Bachelet said.

Santiago's airport will remain closed for at least 24 hours, airport director Eduardo del Canto said. The passenger terminal suffered major damage, he told Chilean television in a telephone interview. TV images show smashed windows, partially collapsed ceilings and pedestrian walkways destroyed.  Santiago's subway was shut as well and hundreds of buses were trapped at a terminal by a damaged bridge, Transportation and Telecommunications Minister told Chilean television. He urged Chileans to make phone calls or travel only when absolutely necessary.

Candia was visiting his wife's 92-year-old grandmother in Talca when the quake struck.

"Everything was falling — chests of drawers, everything," he said. "I was sleeping with my 8-year-old son Diego and I managed to cover his head with a pillow. It was like major turbulence on an airplane."

In Concepcion, 70 miles (115 kilometers) from the epicenter, nurses and residents pushed the injured through the streets on stretchers. Others walked around in a daze wrapped in blankets, some carrying infants in their arms.

A 15-story building collapsed: "I was on the 8th floor and all of a sudden I was down here," said Fernando Abarzua, who lived in the building but somehow escaped with no major injuries.

Abarzua said a relative was still trapped in the rubble six hours after the quake hit, "but he keeps shouting, saying he's OK."

Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city, is 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.

The quake also shook buildings in Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires, 900 miles (1,400 kilometers) away on the Atlantic side of South America. It was felt as far away as Sao Paulo in Brazil — 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) east of the epicenter...

8.8-magnitude earthquake hits central Chile
By EVA VERGARA, Associated Press Writer
Feb. 27, 2010

SANTIAGO, Chile – A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, killing at least 78 people, collapsing buildings and setting off a tsunami.  A huge wave reached a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast, said President Michele Bachelet.  Tsunami warnings were issued over a wide area, including South America, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Russia and many Pacific islands.

"It has been a devastating earthquake," Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma told reporters.

Bachelet said the death toll was at 78 and rising, but officials had no information on the number of people injured. She declared a "state of catastrophe" in central Chile.

"We have had a huge earthquake, with some aftershocks," Bachelet said from an emergency response center. She urged Chileans not to panic.

"Despite this, the system is functioning. People should remain calm. We're doing everything we can with all the forces we have. Any information we will share immediately," she said.

In the 2 1/2 hours following the 90-second quake, the U.S. Geological Survey reported 11 aftershocks, five of them measuring 6.0 or above.  Bachelet urged people to avoid traveling, since traffic lights are down, to avoid causing more fatalities.  In the capital, Santiago airport was shut down and will remain closed for at least the next 24 hours, airport director Eduardo del Canto said. The passenger terminal has suffered major damage, he told Chilean television in a telephone interview. TV images show smashed windows, partially collapsed ceilings and pedestrian walkways destroyed.

Chilean television showed images of destroyed buildings and damaged cars, with rubble-strewn streets. Dozens of people were seen roaming through the streets, including some wheeling suitcases behind them. There was a fire burning in one street with people sitting nearby trying to keep warm.

The quake hit 200 miles (325 kilometers) southwest of Santiago, at a depth of 22 miles (35 kilometers) at 3:34 a.m. (0634 GMT; 1:34 a.m. EST), the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The epicenter was just 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live along the Bio Bio river, and 60 miles from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.  Marco Vidal, a program director for Grand Circle Travel traveling with a group of 34 Americans, was on the 19th floor of the Crown Plaza Santiago hotel when the quake struck.

"All the things start to fall. The lamps, everything, was going on the floor. And it was moving like from south to north, oscillated. I felt terrified," he said.

Cynthia Iocono, from Linwood, Pennsylvania, said she first thought the quake was a train.

"But then I thought, oh, there's no train here. And then the lamps flew off the dresser and my TV flew off onto the floor and crashed."

"It was scary, but there really wasn't any panic. Everybody kind of stayed orderly and looked after one another," Iocono said.

In Santiago, modern buildings are built to withstand earthquakes, but many older ones were heavily damaged, including the Nuestra Senora de la Providencia church, whose bell tower collapsed. An apartment building's two-level parking lot also flattened onto the ground floor, smashing about 50 cars whose alarms and horns rang incessantly. A bridge just outside the capital also collapsed, and at least one car flipped upside down.

In the coastal city of Vina del Mar, the earthquake struck just as people were leaving a disco, Julio Alvarez told Radio Cooperativa in Santiago. "It was very bad, people were screaming, some people were running, others appeared paralyzed. I was one of them."

Bachelet said she was declaring a "state of catastrophe" in three central regions of the country, and that while emergency responders were waiting for first light to get details, it was evident that damage was extensive.  She said Chile has not asked for assistance from other countries.

Several hospitals have been evacuated due to earthquake damage, she said, and communications with the city of Concepcion remained down. She planned to tour the effected region as quickly as possible to get a better idea of the damage.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center called for "urgent action to protect lives and property" in Hawaii, which is among 53 nations and territories subject to tsunami warnings.

A huge wave reached a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast, Bachelet said. There were no immediate reports of major damage there, she added.

"Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated. It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts," the warning center said. It did not expect a tsunami along the west of the U.S. or Canada but was continuing to monitor the situation.

The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile on May 22, 1960. The magnitude-9.5 quake killed 1,655 people and left 2 million homeless. The tsunami that it caused killed people in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines and caused damage to the west coast of the United States. 

An Earthquake Is Coming (In California) – Is Your House Insured?
By MATTHEW STURDEVANT, The Hartford Courant
10:43 AM EST, February 18, 2010

Haiti's recovery from its Jan. 12 earthquake is a reminder that a slumbering disaster is waiting to erupt in California.

And while Los Angeles is on the opposite end of the country, a major earthquake would cause financial ripples felt all the way in New England, even if the actual tremor didn't wiggle a blade of grass in Connecticut. The same is true if Chicago was hit by a more serious earthquake than the one that rattled Illinois last week.

Just this week, the insurance commissioners in New York and Illinois reminded residents of those states that standard homeowners insurance does not cover earthquakes.

Even in California, only a small percentage of property owners have earthquake insurance. Property owners say they don't want to pay the monthly premiums.

"There is no requirement in California for anybody, at least not from the state, there's no mandate that you buy coverage," said Julie Rochman, president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Business & Home Safety. "And what we have found, and it is really disappointing, is the level of take-up has stayed in the low teens, or even 12 percent."

Coverage rates were 30 percent in the mid-1990s after a significant earthquake shook Southern California in 1994, but have dropped off since then.

Among the companies that insure homes in California are Travelers Cos. and The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Connecticut stalwarts. State law in California requires those insurers, and all who offer homeowners insurance there, to offer earthquake coverage to their customers, too.

But with few taking the coverage, a quake in Southern California would set off a chain reaction: people would lose their biggest asset, and banks would struggle from people failing to pay mortgage loans, while neither the homeowner nor the bank would have collateral for the loans.

Municipalities would scramble to fix shattered roads and public buildings.

The human toll, of course, would define the catastrophe. But with lack of widespread coverage, the literal and economic mess would be left to state and federal emergency agencies. And taxpayers would pick up the tab.

Seeing this, a state-organized public-private insurance authority in California is proposing federal legislation that they say will make earthquake insurance more affordable.

Awaiting The Big One

It's not a matter of if a major quake is coming, but when.

The likelihood is 99.7 percent that a 6.7 percent magnitude earthquake, or greater, will rip through California in the next 30 years, according to a 2008 report by the U.S. Geological Survey. The chances of that quake cracking across greater Los Angeles is 67 percent, and 63 percent in San Francisco.

Connecticut, on the other hand, has had minor quakes since colonial times and is "a region of very minor seismic activity, even when compared to other states in the Northeast region," according to the USGS. The closest thing Connecticut has to earthquake lore is the village of Moodus in East Haddam, which derives its name from the Native American word Morehemoodus, or "place of noises," because of seismic rumblings there.

The greater threat than a quake in Connecticut is the economic effect of one in California. For example, a 6.7 magnitude quake struck Northridge, Calif., on Jan. 17, 1994, causing $20 billion in damage.

"California has grown immensely since then ... if the same earthquake were to occur today, there would be $130 billion in total damage to property," said Jayanta Guin, senior vice president for research and modeling at AIR Worldwide, which models earthquakes and potential loss for insurers.

The $130 billion estimate includes property and business, but is only a fraction of the economic loss, which is generally about twice as much. AIR Worldwide also calculated the annual probability of expensive earthquakes in California: a 5 percent chance of one that causes $50 billion in damage or more to property and business, a 2 percent chance of a quake causing $100 billion in damage or more.

If the Northridge quake happened again today, only a small fraction — up to $20 billion — would be borne by the insurance industry, Guin said.

'Reduced To Zero'

After the Northridge quake, insurers jacked up rates and instituted strict rules for underwriting homeowners insurance.

Few homeowners could get coverage until the creation of the California Earthquake Authority in 1996. Insurers apply to offer a policy through the authority. The authority collects premiums and bears the responsibility of loss for participating insurers — Travelers and The Hartford not among them.

It worked relatively well initially, and 30 percent of homeowners signed up for earthquake coverage the year the authority was formed. That percentage has dropped off, but the authority still commands about 70 percent of California's earthquake insurance market.

Officials at both Travelers and The Hartford declined to comment for this story, and would not say how many of their customers in California have earthquake insurance, or what could be done to increase participation. Both companies raise millions each year by providing earthquake coverage on the west coast, and it's not clear whether they are actively trying to grow that business.

In 2008, Travelers received $16.2 million in written premiums for earthquake coverage in California (1.4 percent of the state's market share), and The Hartford raised $14.6 million (1.3 percent) according to the California Department of Insurance.

Some homeowners mistakenly believe their homeowners policy covers earthquake insurance, according to the Insurance Information Network of California. And, unlike other catastrophes, earthquakes don't come around in seasonal cycles — so people grow less worried about the risk as more time passes.

The most common reason people opt out is high premiums and high deductibles, according to insurance experts and state officials.

For example, the cost to cover a $450,000, two-story house built after 1990 in Northridge, Cal., is $1,591 a year, or $133 per month, in addition to regular homeowners' insurance, according to the earthquake authority's premium calculator. That assumes a 15 percent deductible — meaning the insurer wouldn't cover the first $67,500 in damage on that $450,000 house — and $50,000 in personal property coverage for furniture and other items in the house.

Instead, people are taking their chances, which is a high-stakes risk, said Steven Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, a trade organization.

"What they're also saying is, 'I'm willing to take the chance my $300,000 house will be reduced to zero.' For some people that is their single largest asset. And, of course, if the house is reduced to zero, they still owe on the mortgage. Now, they're probably going to walk away from it, declare bankruptcy. This is not a set of good outcomes here."

A Way To Pay

The California Earthquake Authority has a proposal to lower premiums, get more people to sign up for coverage and lessen the tax burden when a big quake hits.

Authority chief executive Glenn Pomeroy said the state spends too much each year on reinsurance, which is an insurance policy for insurers to dilute risk. Pomeroy said the authority could stop paying so much in reinsurance, and reduce premiums to customers, if the federal government agreed to back the authority's borrowing capacity.

"In essence, paying for the really big one only when we need to, instead of what we're doing each year which is trying to pay for the big one each and every year," Pomeroy said.

It would also be a greater incentive to insurers to become members in the authority, or force them to compete with its less expensive premiums.

Pomeroy admits that if California mandated earthquake coverage, it would go a long way in spreading risk and therefore reducing premiums. But the politics around a mandate would probably sink the idea.

The federal guarantee on debt, in his mind, would lessen the cost to taxpayers when the big one hits.

"We're trying to get more people protected so there's less need for that after the fact," Pomeroy said

Information about earthquake risks is available on the Web sites of the Federal Emergency Management Agency,, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS),

Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant

USGS: Magnitude-6.0 quake off Northern Calif coast
Feb. 4, 2010

PETROLIA, Calif. – A magnitude-6.0 earthquake has struck off the coast of Northern California's Humboldt County, but officials say there are no immediate reports of major damage or injury.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports the temblor hit at 12:20 p.m. about 35 miles northwest of the community of Petrolia and nearly 50 miles west of Eureka. The shaking was felt up to the Oregon border and as far south as Sonoma County.

County spokesman Phil Smith-Hanes says he felt a rolling sensation, but the movement didn't feel as severe as the magnitude-6.5 quake that struck the same area Jan. 9. That quake left more than $40 million of damage in the area and caused one major injury.

Eureka Fire Chief Eric Smith says crews are checking on structures damaged in the previous earthquake.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PETROLIA, Calif. (AP) — Officials say a magnitude-6.0 earthquake has struck off the coast of Northern California's Humboldt County.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports the temblor hit at 12:20 p.m. PST about 35 miles northwest of the town of Petrolia and nearly 50 miles west of Eureka.

An employee at the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office says there are no immediate reports of major injuries or damage.

Humboldt County spokesman Phil Smith-Hanes says he felt a rolling sensation, but the movement didn't feel as severe as the magnitude-6.5 quake that struck the same area Jan. 9.

6.4-quake shakes Puerto Rico, causing minor damage
Associated Press
Published 01/13/2014 12:00 AM
Updated 01/13/2014 06:30 AM

San Juan, Puerto Rico (AP) — A strong earthquake out to sea shook Puerto Rico early Monday, causing minor damage in some places.

Some people reported items falling in their home and dozens said they felt buildings sway in the capital of San Juan, about 61 miles (98 kilometers) from the quake's epicenter.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 and struck just after midnight about 35 miles (57 kilometers) north of Hatillo. It said the quake occurred 17 miles (28 kilometers) deep.

Puerto Rico's emergency management agency said there was no tsunami warning and that no injuries have been reported.

Earthquakes of similar magnitude have struck near Puerto Rico in recent years, including a 5.4-magnitude one that shook the U.S. territory in March 2011 and another one of the same magnitude that struck on Christmas Eve in 2010.

Two earthquakes strike Puerto Rico; no immediate reports of damage
Wire reports
8:03 AM EST, December 17, 2011

Two earthquakes struck Puerto Rico within minutes of each other early Saturday.

The quakes, with magnitudes of 5.1 and 5.3 respectively, occurred three minutes apart just after 2 a.m. AST in the Mona Passage, just to the west of the island. A smaller aftershock was reported a few minutes later, and all were felt in the capital, San Juan.

The quake was not strong enough to create a tsunami, the U.S. West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The tremor was felt at a hotel on the northwestern coast of Puerto Rico, said Jose Caro, an employee at Marriott Courtyard Aguadilla.

"Everything is OK. Some people went out of their rooms, but everything is back to normal," said Caro, reached by phone from Washington.

Some residents in the island’s southwest region reported power outages as well as broken items around the house.

There were no immediate reports of damage in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Officials in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory in the Caribbean Sea, could not immediately be reached.

Looks like "Escape From New York" - check out the topo map above.  Agrarian practices, land tenure, contribute to the present problems.

Editorial Observer: Haiti’s Futile Race Against the Rain
March 1, 2010

There were floods on Saturday in Les Cayes, in southwestern Haiti. It rained in Port-au-Prince on Thursday, and again on Saturday and Sunday night, long enough to slick the streets and make a slurry of the dirt and concrete dust. Long enough, too, to give a sense of what will happen across the country in a few weeks, when the real storms start.

Mud will wash down the mountains, and rain will overflow gutters choked with rubble and waste, turning streets into filthy rivers. Life will get even more difficult for more than a million people.

New misery and sickness will drench the displaced survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake — like the 16,000 or so whose tents and flimsy shacks fill every available inch of the Champ de Mars, the plaza in Port-au-Prince by the cracked and crumbled National Palace, or the 70,000 who have made a city of the Petionville Club, a nine-hole golf course on a mountainside above the capital.

The rainy season is the hard deadline against which Haiti’s government and relief agencies in Port-au-Prince are racing as they try to solve a paralyzing riddle: how to shelter more than a million displaced people in a densely crowded country that has no good place to put them.

The plan after the quake was to move people to camps outside the city. But in a sudden shift last week, officials unveiled a new idea. They would try to send as many people as possible, tens of thousands, back to the shattered streets of Port-au-Prince before the rains come. The prime minister approved it on Friday.

If it sounds insane, insanity is relative in Haiti now. Consider the choices:

¶Let people stay in filthy, fragile settlements where no one wants to live, and pray when the hurricanes hit.

¶Build sturdy transitional housing in places like Jérémie, in the southwest, that can absorb the capital’s overflow.

¶Encourage people to return to neighborhoods that are clogged with rubble and will be for years, where the smell of death persists. In areas like Bel Air and Fort National, near Champ de Mars, people whose homes still stand are sleeping outside, in fear of aftershocks. They were still pulling bodies out of Fort National over the weekend, burning them on the spot.

The first plan is intolerable. The second may come true only several years and hurricanes from now. The third is merely absurd.

Officials believe that if they clear just enough rubble from certain areas of the city and improve drainage in flood-prone areas, they can ease the pressure on the camps and save lives. It makes some sense to keep people near their neighborhoods, holding on to what remains of their lives and livelihoods.

But when what remains is nothing, it’s hard to make sense of that idea. Harder still when you realize that the Haitian government and aid agencies are still overwhelmed by the crisis. The government hasn’t even figured out where to put the rubble, and doesn’t seem to know who is living where.

Official word was that 80 percent of refugees in Champ de Mars were from Turgeau, where debris-clearing is to begin. I talked with about 40 people throughout the Champ de Mars. They were from Bel Air, Fort National, St. Martin. Nobody was from Turgeau. Several knew of the plan and a few had registered for it. But nobody had been told where, when and how they would leave.

Pascal Benjamin, a 29-year-old huddled with family on the edge of the Champ de Mars, is from Bel Air. “I heard they were going to find a place, but they never came to talk to us.”

I spoke with Selondieu Marcelus, his brother, Sony, and nephew, Ricardo. They were standing beside a yellow tent marked with sardonic graffiti. “Donnons le pays aux Français,” it said. “Let’s give the country to the French.”

Mr. Marcelus once lived on Rue Macajoux in Bel Air. He lost his wife there. He didn’t know where he would end up. As long as the place has work, jobs, electricity, I don’t mind, he said. He was unusual. Most of those I met, in Champ de Mars and in the vast blue-and-orange tarpscape blanketing the Petionville Club, said they dearly wanted to go home.

It seems certain that this plan for Haiti’s displaced is going to be ineffective, and that people will suffer and die for lack of anything better. The only rational plan for Haiti is to disperse the population of a city that filled to bursting years ago. Making it easier for people to shoehorn back into Port-au-Prince, looking for jobs and space that don’t exist, is ludicrous.

It’s a sign of the scale and perplexing nature of this disaster — and the fix faced by the government that is too slowly confronting it — that the ludicrous option is the only one available.

A Deadly Quake in a Seismic Hot Zone
January 26, 2010

To scientists who study seismic hazards in the Caribbean, there was no surprise in the magnitude 7 earthquake that devastated the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, two weeks ago.

Except, perhaps, in where on the island of Hispaniola it occurred.

“If I had had to make a bet, I would have bet that the first earthquake would have taken place in the northern Dominican Republic, not Haiti,” said Eric Calais, a geophysicist at Purdue University who has conducted research in the area for years.

The fault that ruptured violently on Jan. 12 had been building up strain since the last major earthquake in Port-au-Prince, 240 years ago. Dr. Calais and others had warned in 2008 that a quake could occur along that segment, part of what is called the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone, although they could not predict when.

But about 100 miles to the north is a similar fault, the Septentrional, that has not had a quake in 800 years. Researchers have estimated that a rupture along that fault — and again, they have no idea when one might occur — could result in a magnitude 7.5 quake that could cause severe damage in the Dominican Republic’s second-largest city, Santiago, and the surrounding Cibao Valley, together home to several million people.

“You can imagine the strain that has accumulated there,” said Paul Mann, a senior research scientist at the University of Texas, referring to the Septentrional fault. “It’s been going on for longer and accumulating faster. Therefore it’s going to produce a stronger earthquake.”

The recent quake on the Enriquillo fault and the forecast for the Septentrional are bleak reminders that the Caribbean is an active seismic zone, one with many hazards. Major earthquakes have regularly devastated the region’s cities, including the Jamaican capital, Kingston, which was destroyed twice in three centuries. An eruption of Mount Pelée killed 30,000 people in Martinique in the Lesser Antilles in 1902, and it and other volcanoes are currently active along that island arc on the Caribbean’s north and eastern reaches. Earthquakes and landslides along the Puerto Rico Trench, an undersea fault zone, have the potential to cause tsunamis.

The Haitian quake itself might have added to the risks, researchers say. Dr. Calais and colleagues and a team including Ross Stein of the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., have each calculated the stress changes on the Enriquillo fault that occurred when a 30-mile segment, centered in Léogâne about 18 miles west of Port-au-Prince, gave way this month. Although the results are preliminary, the work shows that stresses have increased just west of the segment and just east, within three miles of Port-au-Prince.

“This earthquake has increased the risk on other segments of that fault and perhaps on other faults as well,” Dr. Calais said. “The numbers are well within the range of stress changes that have triggered earthquakes on other faults.” But he said the quake probably did not increase the likelihood of a major tremor on the Septentrional fault.

The Haitian quake has produced a large number of aftershocks, about three times as many as quakes of similar magnitude in California and elsewhere, Dr. Stein said. But the intensity and frequency of those aftershocks have followed the patterns of other earthquakes, he said. Last Thursday, the geological survey issued a statement estimating that there was a 3 percent likelihood of a 7 magnitude aftershock in the next 30 days, and a 25 percent chance of one of magnitude 6. (On Wednesday, the area experienced a strong aftershock that was initially rated at 6.1 but was revised to 5.8.)

Of some concern, researchers said, was that none of the aftershocks have occurred in the area of increased stress nearer to Port-au-Prince, where ordinarily some might have been expected.

“One possibility is that these are simply calculations, and they may be wrong,” Dr. Stein said. “The other possibility is, O.K., this fault is fundamentally locked in some fashion, on pretty much all scales, and might be capable of popping off something large.”

In its statement, the geological survey cautioned that near the capital, “the fault still stores sufficient strain to be released as a large, damaging earthquake during the lifetime of structures built during the reconstruction effort.”

The region’s seismic activity is due to the movement of the Caribbean tectonic plate, which can be likened to a finger pushing its way against two larger plates, the North American and South American. Along the boundaries, the relative eastward movement of the Caribbean plate, at the rate of less than an inch a year, creates strike-slip faults, shallow fissures whose sides slide in relation to one another in an earthquake.

On the island of Hispaniola, which comprises the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Caribbean-North American boundary stresses are expressed in numerous strike-slip faults, including the Enriquillo and Septentrional, which are relatively long and roughly parallel.

“It’s a bit unusual to have two parallel faults like that,” said Uri S. ten Brink, a geophysicist with the geological survey in Woods Hole, Mass. “It may simply be that for some reason there was already a weakened area further south.”

Dr. ten Brink’s main area of research is the Puerto Rico Trench, north of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. This is a subduction zone — where the North American plate is sliding under the Caribbean, creating the potential for earthquakes and undersea landslides that can set off tsunamis.

“We’re trying to see if it’s a similar situation to the Sumatra fault,” Dr. ten Brink said, referring to the Indonesian subduction zone where a large earthquake in December 2004 created a tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people. Scientists have not yet found evidence of large subduction earthquakes on the Puerto Rican Trench, he said, “but that’s the $64,000 question.”

Because of the proximity of the trench to American territory, Dr. ten Brink and others have been able to obtain financing for their studies. But in other places around the Caribbean, research money has been hard to come by.

Haiti, for example, has no seismometers, meaning there has been no way to measure all the small tremors that might help characterize the Enriquillo fault. Researchers have relied on a network of 35 benchmarks to measure fault movement. Last week Dr. Calais, Dr. Mann and others were planning a trip to Haiti to make more accurate measurements for their stress calculations, and to install devices to monitor the fault zone continuously for a year or more.

Much of what is known about the seismic activity around Port-au-Prince has been gleaned from historical accounts of previous quakes. While far from precise, these accounts suggest a century-long, westward-marching sequence of quakes along the fault, beginning with one in 1751 in the Dominican Republic at the fault’s eastern end and including the 1770 earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince.

That raises the possibility that the Jan. 12 earthquake could be the beginning of a new sequence occurring over decades, with each successive quake redistributing stresses along the fault. “It’s certainly possible and it’s really something we’re very concerned about,” said Carol S. Prentice, a geologist with the geological survey in Menlo Park. Such sequences have been observed on other faults, including the North Anatolian in Turkey.

The Septentrional fault’s history is better known, largely because Dr. Prentice and others have done basic research on a segment in the Dominican Republic. The study involved digging trenches across the fault and looking for rupture lines in the sediments. By finding higher sediments that are unruptured, the dates of quakes can be determined.

Researchers said that more study was needed on the Septentrional and Enriquillo faults and elsewhere in the Caribbean, and that governments needed to prepare better for the inevitable.

There are already signs that the Haitian quake has prompted concern elsewhere in the region, at least among the general population. Dr. Mann said he was on Jamaican radio programs in the past two weeks to discuss the hazards.

“They know they’ve been destroyed twice,” he said. “They know their construction is not the best. All those things have put the whole country on edge.

“The whole region is fearful.”

Haiti refocuses attention on quake insurance
San Francisco Chronicle
Kathleen Pender

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This month's big earthquake in Eureka, followed by the far more devastating one in Haiti, should focus attention on the staggering uninsured losses that will result from the next big shaker in California unless something is done soon.

Statewide, only 12 percent of homeowners with insurance also have quake coverage. About 70 percent of that is underwritten by the California Earthquake Authority, a state-sponsored entity that sells quake insurance through commercial insurance companies.

The CEA admits that even with its insurance, homeowners could suffer "substantial uninsured loss." Its policies pay nothing until structural damage alone exceeds 15 percent of the home's insured value. After that, they pay for damage to structure and household goods up to the policy limit. The basic policy pays only $1,500 in living expenses if you can't stay in your home.

If a large quake erupted on the Hayward Fault, only 6 to 10 percent of total residential losses and 15 to 20 percent of commercial losses would be covered by insurance, according to Risk Management Solutions, a firm that predicts damage from catastrophes.

By comparison, about 53 percent of the economic losses to homes and businesses following Hurricane Katrina were covered by insurance, including payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program.

Katrina looks like "a well-covered event" compared with a potential earthquake in California, says Doug Heller, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

Even if you have earthquake insurance, if most of your neighbors don't, your property value and quality of life could plummet if their homes are abandoned or fall into disrepair.

One way to minimize damage is to encourage home and building owners to retrofit their property, says Mary Lou Zoback, a vice president with Risk Management Solutions. Another is to sell more quake insurance.

Lower premiums

Spreading risk should give insurers more capital from which to pay claims and lead to lower premiums for consumers - the same way group health insurance costs less than an individual policy. It also helps offset adverse selection, which happens when the only people who buy insurance are those most likely to have claims.

But here's the conundrum: Premiums won't come down until more people buy policies, and sales won't pick up until premiums come down.

The average CEA premium in California is $707, but prices vary greatly depending on the home's location and type of construction.

The CEA, along with similar agencies in hurricane-prone states, is pushing a bill that it says would dramatically lower its costs by substituting reinsurance with a federal guarantee on bonds sold following a major disaster. If the legislation passes, the CEA says, it could lower its premiums by 30 to 40 percent. Or it could lower them by a smaller percentage but also reduce the deductible, or make other policy improvements.

In California, companies that sell homeowners insurance are required to offer earthquake coverage. After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, many companies stopped or threatened to stop selling new homeowners policies rather than continue offering quake coverage. In response, the state created the CEA, which offers bare-bones policies that firms can offer as an alternative to their own.

Insurers representing 70 percent of the residential market offer CEA policies. CEA pays these companies a fee but keeps the premiums and takes the risk itself.

Today, if a major quake occurred, the CEA would pay claims first from its own capital, then from proceeds of revenue bonds it has sold, then from reinsurance and finally, if needed, by hitting insurance companies that do business in the state with a special assessment.

Insurance companies buy reinsurance to pay claims that they can't. The CEA says it is spending about 40 cents of every premium dollar on reinsurance.

Under the proposal in Congress - called the Catastrophe Obligation Guarantee Act - the CEA would cut way back on its reinsurance. Then, if a major quake occurred and it exhausted all of its other resources - including the special industry assessment - the authority would sell bonds guaranteed by the federal government.

To repay the bonds, the CEA would raise premiums, but not as high as they are today. The bonds would not be an obligation of the state, and the federal government would step in only if the CEA defaulted.

Limited guarantee

The government could guarantee a total of $5 billion worth of bonds for all earthquake damage and $20 billion for hurricanes.

"Our modeling is that there is only 1/2 to 1 percent chance we would need to borrow," says Glenn Pomeroy, the CEA's chief executive.

Heller, the consumer advocate, supports the bill. He believes the CEA, as a nonprofit state-sponsored entity, would pass along savings to policyholders.

"The risk for the federal government is that the earthquake authority can't bring in enough money to pay back the bonds," he says. "But it's something they would kind of be on the hook for anyway. If California is falling into the ocean, the federal government will have to do something about it. If they can shore up private or state coverage of disasters, the federal government doesn't have to step in as much."

The downside is that homeowners won't directly benefit if their insurance company doesn't offer a CEA policy. "A flaw in the law" doesn't let consumers buy a stand-alone policy from CEA, Heller says.

Robert Hunter, director of insurance with the Consumer Federation of America, says "the concept is good, but the devil is in the details."

If they couldn't compete on price, private companies might have to stop selling their own quake insurance and offer CEA coverage, which could impact competition.

"It could have an adverse effect on competition," Hunter says, although hardly anyone is buying quake insurance in the first place.

The Senate version of the bill, S886, was introduced in April. The House version, introduced in November, is HR4014. The concept is also included in a larger bill dealing with catastrophes, HR2555.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, says it would "save Californians up to $150 million per year at a time when family budgets are stretched thin."

The American Insurance Association, a trade group, opposes it.

Risk potential

"Any time you are setting up a federal backstop for a state-run insurance mechanism, you are potentially creating a disincentive for the state to charge risk-based rates and to manage their portfolio of risk to an appropriate level," says Eric Goldberg, the group's associate general counsel. In other words, "If you know the government is there to bail you out, you might take on more risk than is prudent and keep prices artificially low because it is politically expedient to do so."

Goldberg doesn't see any benefit to U.S. taxpayers. "Post-Katrina, the vast majority of federal dollars spent were not covering (uninsured homeowners). Everyone who wanted flood or windstorm coverage could have bought it. What you saw in terms of federal expenditures was way more on infrastructure and temporary housing. That's something the federal government would do anyway, regardless of insurance."

The two bills have had little action, which is understandable given the focus on health care and financial regulation.

"What's going on in Haiti is not comparable, but it brings some awareness that we have disaster issues in America," Heller says. The problem for the bills' sponsors "is not convincing people it's right, it's convincing people it's relevant. I'm hopeful this will break through the consciousness in Washington to give elected officials a chance to actually get something done."

Net Worth runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail Kathleen Pender at

This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

New magnitude-6.1 quake hits Haiti
Washington Times
Originally published 07:46 a.m., January 20, 2010, updated 08:05 a.m., January 20, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- A powerful aftershock struck Haiti on Wednesday, shaking buildings and sending screaming people running into the streets only eight days after the country's capital was devastated by a major earthquake.

The magnitude-6.1 temblor was the largest aftershock yet to the apocalyptic Jan. 12 quake that shattered Haiti's capital. It was not immediately clear if it caused additional damage or injuries.

The new quake hit at 6:03 a.m. (1103 GMT) about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince and 13.7 miles (22 kilometers) below the surface.

Wails of terror rose from frightened survivors as the earth shuddered at 6:03 a.m. The U.S. Geologic Survey said the quake was centered about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of Port-au-Prince and was 13.7 miles (22 kilometers) below the surface.

Last week's magnitude-7 quake killed an estimated 200,000 people in Haiti, left 250,000 injured and made 1.5 million homeless, according to the European Union Commission. A massive international aid effort has been launched, but is struggling with overwhelming logistical problems.

Still, search-and-rescue teams have emerged from the ruins with some improbable success stories -- including the rescue of 69-year-old ardent Roman Catholic who said she prayed constantly during her week under the rubble.

Ena Zizi had been at a church meeting at the residence of Haiti's Roman Catholic archbishop when the Jan. 12 quake struck, trapping her in debris. On Tuesday, she was rescued by a Mexican disaster team that was created in the wake of Mexico City's 1985 earthquake.

Zizi said that after the quake, she spoke back and forth with a vicar who also was trapped. But after a few days, he fell silent, and she spent the rest of the time praying and waiting.

"I talked only to my boss, God," she said. "And I didn't need any more humans."

Doctors who examined Zizi on Tuesday said she was dehydrated and had a dislocated hip and a broken leg.

Elsewhere in the capital, two women were pulled from a destroyed university building. And near midnight Tuesday, a smiling and singing 26-year-old Lozama Hotteline was carried to safety from a collapsed store in the Petionville neighborhood by the French aid group Rescuers Without Borders.

Crews at the cathedral compound site Tuesday recovered the body of the archbishop, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, who was killed in the Jan. 12 quake.

Authorities said close to 100 people had been pulled from wrecked buildings by international search-and-rescue teams. Efforts continued, with dozens of teams sifting through Port-au-Prince's crumbled homes and buildings for signs of life.

But the good news was overshadowed by the frustrating fact that the world still can't get enough food and water to the hungry and thirsty.

"We need so much. Food, clothes, we need everything. I don't know whose responsibility it is, but they need to give us something soon," said Sophia Eltime, a 29-year-old mother of two who has been living under a bedsheet with seven members of her extended family.

The World Food Program said more than 250,000 ready-to-eat food rations had been distributed in Haiti by Tuesday, reaching only a fraction of the 3 million people thought to be in desperate need.

The WFP said it needs to deliver 100 million ready-to-eat rations in the next 30 days. Based on pledges from the United States, Italy and Denmark, it has 16 million in the pipeline.

Even as U.S. troops landed in Seahawk helicopters Tuesday on the manicured lawn of the ruined National Palace, the colossal efforts to help Haiti were proving inadequate because of the scale of the disaster and the limitations of the world's governments. Expectations exceeded what money, will and military might have been able to achieve.

So far, international relief efforts have been unorganized, disjointed and insufficient to satisfy the great need. Doctors Without Borders says a plane carrying urgently needed surgical equipment and drugs has been turned away five times, even though the agency received advance authorization to land.

A statement from Partners in Health, co-founded by the deputy U.N. envoy to Haiti, Dr. Paul Farmer, said the group's medical director estimated 20,000 people are dying each day who could be saved by surgery.


The reasons are varied:

• Both national and international authorities suffered great losses in the quake, taking out many of the leaders best suited to organize a response.

• Woefully inadequate infrastructure and a near-complete failure in telephone and Internet communications complicate efforts to reach millions of people forced from homes turned into piles of rubble.

• Fears of looting and violence keep aid groups and governments from moving as quickly as they'd like.

• Pre-existing poverty and malnutrition put some at risk even before the quake hit.

Governments have pledged nearly $1 billion in aid, and thousands of tons of food and medical supplies have been shipped. But much remains trapped in warehouses, or diverted to the neighboring Dominican Republic. The nonfunctioning seaport and impassable roads complicate efforts to get aid to the people.

Aid is being turned back from the single-runway airport, where the U.S. military has been criticized by some of poorly prioritizing flights. The U.S. Air Force said it had raised the facility's daily capacity from 30 flights before the quake to 180 on Tuesday.

About 2,200 U.S. Marines established a beachhead west of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday to help speed aid delivery, in addition to 9,000 Army soldiers already on the ground. Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a U.S. military spokesman, said helicopters were ferrying aid from the airport into Port-au-Prince and the nearby town of Jacmel as fast as they could.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that the military will send a port-clearing ship with cranes aboard to Port-au-Prince. It will be used to remove debris that is preventing many larger ships carrying relief supplies from docking.

The U.N. was sending in reinforcements as well: The Security Council voted Tuesday to add 2,000 peacekeepers to the 7,000 already in Haiti, and 1,500 more police to the 2,100-strong international force.

"The floodgates for aid are starting to open," Matthews said at the airport. "In the first few days, you're limited by manpower, but we're starting to bring people in."

The WFP's Alain Jaffre said the U.N. agency was starting to find its stride after distribution problems, and hoped to help 100,000 people by Wednesday.

Hanging over the entire effort was an overwhelming fear among relief officials that Haitians' desperation would boil over into violence.

"We've very concerned about the level of security we need around our people when we're doing distributions," said Graham Tardif, who heads disaster-relief efforts for the charity World Vision. The U.N., the U.S. government and other organizations echoed such fears.

Occasionally, those fears have been borne out. Looters rampaged through part of downtown Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, just four blocks from where U.S. troops landed at the presidential palace.

Hundreds of looters fought over bolts of cloth and other goods with broken bottles and clubs.

New Web-based relief tools emerging to help Haiti
By FRANK BAJAK, AP Technology Writer
January 19, 2010

Hundreds of tech volunteers spurred to action by Haiti's killer quake are adding a new dimension to disaster relief, developing new tools and services for first responders and the public in an unprecedented effort.

"It really is amazing the change in the way crisis response can be done now," said Noel Dickover, a Washington, D.C.-based organizer of the CrisisCamp tech volunteer movement, which is central to the Haiti effort. "Developers, crisis mappers and even Internet-savvy folks can actually make a difference."

Volunteers have built and refined software for tracking missing people, mapping the disaster area and enabling urgent cell phone text messaging. Organizations including the International Red Cross and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency have put the systems to use.

Tim Schwartz, a 28-year-old artist and programmer in San Diego, feared that with an array of social-networking sites, crucial information about Haitian quake victims would "go everywhere on the Internet and it would be very hard to actually find people — and get back to their loved ones," he said. So Schwartz quickly e-mailed "all the developers I'd ever worked with."

In a few hours, he and 10 others had built, an online lost-and-found to help Haitians in and out of the country locate missing relatives.

The database, which anyone can update, was online less than 24 hours after the quake struck, with more than 6,000 entries because Schwartz and his colleagues wrote an "scraper" that gathered data from a Red Cross site.

The New York Times, Miami Herald, CNN and others launched similar efforts. And two days later, Google had a similar tool running, PersonFinder, that the State Department promoted on its own Web site and Twitter. PersonFinder grew out of missing-persons technology developed after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005.

Christopher Csikszentmihalyi, director of the Center for Future Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, advocated online for consolidating all such tools into the Google version so the information wouldn't be stuck in competing projects.

He considers PersonFinder, which can be embedded in any Web site and as of Tuesday had more than 32,000 records, a triumph because it "greatly increases the chances that Haitians in Haiti and abroad will be able to find each other."

Schwartz agreed and folded his database into PersonFinder, which he thinks will become "THE application for missing people for this disaster and all disasters in the future."

The site has received several hundred thousand visits, said Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo. She had no data on how many people had found loved ones using the tool.

Another volunteer project forged in the quake's aftermath is a cell phone text-messaging system that has helped the Red Cross and other relief groups dispatch rescuers, food and water. Haitians needing help can send free text messages from phones on the nation's Digicel service to the number 4636.

"At least 20 people so far have been able to use this program to tell their families in the U.S. that they're OK," said Katie Stanton, a former Google employee working in the State Department's Office of Innovation.

The text messages are translated, categorized and "geotagged" by volunteers including Haitian-American members of the New York City-based Service Employees International Union. The service is being promoted on Haitian radio stations and the service has handled more than 1,000 messages since it began Saturday, said Josh Nesbit, a co-creator. He put together a similar system for hospitals in Malawi, Africa, while at Stanford University.

In another collaborative effort, the OpenStreetMap "crisis mapping" project, volunteers layer up-to-the-minute data (such as the location of new field hospitals and downed bridges) onto post-quake satellite imagery that companies including GeoEye and DigitalGlobe have made freely available. The digital cartography — informed by everything from Twitter feeds to eyewitness reports — has helped aid workers speed food, water and medicine to where it's needed most.

One Colombian rescue team leader uploaded the maps to his crew's portable GPS units before the team arrived on the scene last week, developers said. Another volunteer, Talbot Brooks of Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., converts the maps into letter-sized documents that aid workers have been printing out before traveling to the quake zone.

Internet social networking tools have helped volunteers organize intense work sessions.

CrisisCamp drew some 400 people in six cities including Washington, London and Mountain View, Calif., over the weekend to meet-ups where they devised, built and helped refine tools. Among them: a basic Creole-English dictionary for the iPhone that was delivered to Apple on Monday night for its approval.

"There was no break for lunch and people barely used the bathroom," said Clay Johnson of the Sunlight Foundation, the government transparency-promoting tech nonprofit that hosted the 130 participants in the Washington session. U.N., State Department and World Bank representatives attended.

Johnson also is the coordinator for "We Have, We Need," a project that was hatched in the CrisisCamp session and is about to be launched. It seeks to pair private-sector offers with needs identified by aid workers. For example, a Haitian Internet provider needs networking engineers to restore connectivity. Any volunteers willing to spend a few weeks in Port-au-Prince?

More CrisisCamps are planned this weekend in Northern California, Miami, Atlanta, Washington, Atlanta, Brooklyn, N.Y., Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles.

A week after the quake, many tech relief volunteers are still working full steam.

"These people have been awake for days," Csikszentmihalyi said.


This photograph provided by Médecins Sans Frontières shows wounded people gathered at the office of the medical charity in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Wednesday.  Same photo source as used by New London DAY Norwich reporter with direct story below.

Page last updated at 18:43 GMT, Saturday, 16 January 2010
US presidents launch Haiti quake funds appeal;  US President Barack Obama: 'Historic effort needed in Haiti'

President Barack Obama has appealed to US citizens to contribute funds to help Haiti after the devastating quake that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The US was launching "one of the largest relief efforts in its history", he said, flanked by former Presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading for Haiti to back aid efforts and offer "unwavering support".

Relief has been arriving, but little has moved beyond the jammed airport.

There are reports of gangs and looting in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

There is little police presence in the capital - a BBC correspondent saw only six police officers throughout the day on Friday - although some Brazilian UN peacekeepers are patrolling the streets.

Matt Frei
Matt Frei, BBC News, Port-au-Prince

There are quite a few diggers in town moving debris, sometimes even bodies. But if you reach a pile of rubble, and there's any evidence of life, what you have to do is pick that pile of rubble brick by brick, glass shard by glass shard.

The story that we've heard time and time again is that of lack of bright lights to continue working through the night.

A part of the tarmac looked like a hospital ward on Friday with patients on drips waiting to be moved out. But that is a tiny proportion.

At an outdoor hospital in town there was not a single doctor or nurse, and people were dying in front of our eyes unnecessarily.

If you have lost a leg or foot, and you are lying out in the open at these extraordinary temperatures without water, and medicine, often without any shade for four days, you are not going to live very long.

There is no reason why some of the dozens of doctors who have arrived in the past two days should not go there to treat these people. The roads are clear and it's only a 20-minute drive from the airport.

On Saturday morning, a magnitude-4.5 aftershock struck close to Haiti's capital, the US Geological Survey said, forcing people to flee buildings.

According to Haitian Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime, 50,000 bodies have been collected, but the total number of dead could be "between 100,000 and 200,000".

Damage to the seaport, roads and other infrastructure has prevented the speedy distribution of supplies.

President Barack Obama met George W Bush and Bill Clinton in Washington to seek their support.

After the talks, Mr Obama said the two men would lead the US fundraising efforts through the Bush-Clinton Haiti Fund.

"At this moment we're moving forward with one of the largest relief efforts in our history to save lives and deliver relief that averts an even larger catastrophe," Mr Obama said.

"The two leaders with me today will ensure that this is matched by a historic effort that extends beyond our government."

Mr Bush urged Americans to send "cash", and Mr Clinton said Haitians "can escape their history and built a better future if we do our part".

The whole country has been decapitated
Elisabeth Byrs
UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Mrs Clinton was due in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, but her arrival has been delayed.

In Geneva, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said aid workers were dealing with a disaster "like no other" in UN memory because the country had been "decapitated".

"Government buildings have collapsed and we do not even have the support of the local infrastructure," Elisabeth Byrs said.

Ms Byrs said the situation was even worse than the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia's Aceh province.

"It's worse than the Indonesian earthquake where at least we could get the support of some local authorities," she said.

The UN has launched an appeal for $562m (£346m), intended to help three million people for six months.

A total of about $360m has been pledged so far for the relief effort, but only part of this sum will be included in the emergency appeal.

US authorities have taken temporary control of the airport to help distribute aid supplies more quickly.

A pregnant nurse was pulled from the rubble after people heard her screams

Aid may be arriving in huge quantities but there is little of it to be seen in Port-au-Prince, says the BBC's Nick Davies in the capital.

And many people continue to leave the city, in search of food, water and medicine.

The UN is reporting a rise in the number of people trying to cross into the neighbouring Dominican Republic, and an influx into Haiti's northern cities.

The US has already sent an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, to Haiti and the USS Bataan, carrying a marine expeditionary unit, is on its way.


Satellite and close-up images of Port-au-Prince devastation

A hospital ship and more helicopters are due to be sent in the coming days, carrying more troops and marines, with the total number of US troops to rise to between 9,000 and 10,000.

Aid groups say it is a race against time to find any more trapped survivors.

Plane-loads of rescuers and relief supplies have arrived or are due from the UK, China, the EU, Canada, Russia and Latin American nations.

The UN said about 300,000 people had been made homeless.

Meanwhile, details are emerging about the extent of the damage beyond Port-au-Prince. Up to 90% of the buildings have been damaged in Leogane, a town about 19km (18 miles) to the west, the UN said.

"According to the local police, between 5,000 to 10,000 people have been killed and most bodies are still in the collapsed buildings," Elisabeth Byrs said.

Haiti aid flow grows; feuds over reaching victims
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU and MIKE MELIA, Associated Press Writers
January 16, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Hungry, haggard survivors clamored for food and water Saturday as donors squabbled over how to get aid into Haiti and rescuers waged an increasingly improbable battle to free the dying before they become the dead.

Haiti's government alone has already recovered 20,000 bodies — not counting those recovered by independent agencies or relatives themselves, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told The Associated Press. He said a final toll of 100,000 dead would "seem to be the minimum."

There were growing signs that foreign aid and rescue workers were getting to the people most in need — even those buried deep beneath collapsed buildings — while others struggled to cope with the countless bodies still left on the streets.

Crowds of Haitians thronged around foreign workers shoveling through piles of wreckage at shattered buildings throughout the city, using sniffer dogs, shovels and in some cases heavy earth-moving equipment.

Searchers poked a camera on a wire thorough a hole at the collapsed Hotel Montana and spotted three people who were still alive, and they heard the voice of a woman speaking French, said Ecuadorian Red Cross worker David Betancourt.

In Washington, President Barack Obama joined with his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to appeal for donations to help Haiti and he sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Caribbean nation.

"We stand united with the people of Haiti, who have shown such incredible resilience, and we will help them to recover and to rebuild," Obama vowed.

Bellerive said an estimated 300,000 people are living on the streets in port-au-Prince and "Getting them water, and food, and a shelter is our top priority."

The U.S. military operating Haiti's damaged main airport said it can now handle 90 flights a day, but that wasn't enough to cope with all the planes sent by foreign donors and governments circling overhead in hopes of winning one of the few spots available on the tarmac.

France's Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet told The Associated Press that he had filed an official complaint to the U.S. government after two French planes, one carrying a field hospital, were denied permission to land.

A plane carrying the prime ministers of two Caribbean nations also was forced to turn back late Friday due to a lack of space at the airport, the Caricom trade bloc announced.

Haitian President Rene Preval urged donors to avoid arguments.

"This is an extremely difficult situation. We must keep our cool to do coordination and not to throw accusations at each other," Preval said after emerging from a meeting with donor groups and nations at a dilapidated police station that serves as his temporary headquarters.

With the National Palace and many ministries destroyed, Preval meets with ministers in the open air in a circle of plastic chairs.

On a street in the heavily damaged downtown area, the spade of a massive bulldozer quickly filled up with dead bodies headed for a morgue and immediate burial. Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told AP that disposing of bodies had become crucial.

"Sadly, we have to bring everybody to mass graves because we are racing against a possible epidemic," told AP. Haitians already have been piling bodies and burning them.

Many in the city have painted toothpaste around their nostrils and beg passers-by for surgical masks to cut the smell.

The U.S. Southern Command said it now has 24 helicopters flying relief missions — many from warships off the coast — with 4,200 military personnel involved and 6,300 more due by Monday.

But with aid still scarce in many areas, there were scattered signs that the desperate — or the criminal — were taking things into their own hands.

A water delivery truck driver said he was attacked in one of the city's slums. There were reports of isolated looting as young men walked through downtown with machetes, and robbers reportedly shot one man whose body was left on the street.

An AP photographer saw one looter haul a corpse from a coffin at a city cemetery and then drive away with the box.

"I don't know how much longer we can hold out," said Dee Leahy, a lay missionary from St. Louis, Missouri, who was working with nuns handing out provisions from their small stockpile. "We need food, we need medical supplies, we need medicine, we need vitamins and we need painkillers. And we need it urgently."

U.N. spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said the disaster is the most challenging the U.N. has faced in terms of resources needed. She said there was so much damage to local government and infrastructure that is is harder for relief agencies to work than it was after the Asian tsuanami of 2004.

The Red Cross estimates 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's magnitude-7.0 earthquake. The Pan American Health Organization estimated the toll at 50,000 to 100,000. A third of Haiti's 9 million people may be in need of aid.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the World Food Program was providing high-energy biscuits and ready-to-eat meals to around 8,000 people "several times a day."

"Obviously, that is only a drop in the bucket in the face of the massive need, but the agency will be scaling up to feed approximately 1 million people within 15 days and 2 million people within a month," he said.

Troops from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division began setting up an aid station on a golf course in an affluent part of the city, but they had no supplies to hand out yet and Capt. John Hartsock said it would be another two days before they could start distributing food and water.

"We've got to wait until we've got enough established so we can hand it out in a civilized fashion," Hartsock said.

Many, though, cannot wait.

A violent scuffle broke out among several hundred people jostling to be first in line as three U.S. military helicopters were landing at the golf course with food and water.

The chopper pilots decided it was too dangerous to remain and took off off with their precious cargo still inside.'

"People are so desperate for food that they are going crazy," said Henry Ounche, an accountant who was among the crowd.

Other efforts to get aid to the victims has been slowed by blocked roads, congestion at the airport, limited equipment and fear of violence or disturbances. U.N. peacekeepers warned aid convoys to add security to uard against looting.

International Red Cross spokesman Paul Conneally said a convoy with a field hospital and medical workers was heading into Haiti by road Saturday from the Dominican Republic because "it's not possible to fly anything into Port-au-Prince right now. The airport is completely congested."

The World Health Organization has said eight hospitals in Port-au-Prince were destroyed or damaged, severely curtailing treatment available for the injured.

Hundreds of Haitians fled east toward the Dominican Republic for care. More than 300 earthquake victims were crammed into a 30-bed hospital in the border town of Jimani, many sharing mattresses along crowded corridors, theiir arms drinking up IV fluids.

"The only thing left is to pray for God to save my son," said a weeping Jean-Paul Dieudone, who came to the border seeking help for his 6-year-old son after his wife and other son died in the earthquake.

Officials said damage to the seaport also is a problem for bringing in aid. The arrival Friday of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson helped immediately by taking pressure off the airport. Within hours, an 82nd Airborne Division rapid response unit was handing out food, water and medical supplies from two cargo pallets outside the airport.

Others tried to help in smaller ways.

Milero Cedamou, the 33-year-old owner of a small water delivery company, twice drove his small tanker truck to a tent camp where thousands of homeless people are living. Hundreds clustered around to fill their plastic buckets.

"This is a crisis of unspeakable magnitude; it's normal for every Haitian to help," Cedamou said. "This is not charity."

Medical teams from a dozen other nations set up makeshift hospitals to tend to the critically injured — who were still appearing.

"We have the hope we can find more people," said Chilean Maj. Rodrigo Vasquez, whose teams were trying to save those trapped at the Hotel Montana. But others weren't as hopeful. One Haitian woman sitting outside of the destroyed hotel spoke on her cell phone and sobbed. "No one's alive in there," she said in Creole.

And soon, it will be too late in any case.

"Beyond three or four days without water, they'll be pretty ill," said Dr. Michael VanRooyen of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in Boston. "Around three days would be where you would see people start to succumb."

Still, there were improbable triumphs.

"It's a miracle," said Anne-Marie Morel, raising her arms to the sky after a neighbor was found alive in the rubble of a home. If one person could be resuscitated from the utter destruction of this street, there remained hope that many other could still be found alive, she said.

"Nonsense, there is no God and no miracle," shouted back Remi Polevard, another neighbor, who said his five children were somewhere under the nearby debris.

"How could he do this to us?" Polevard yelled.

Haiti Chief Says Thousands May Be Dead

January 14, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Dawn brought horrible scenes to light in Haiti’s capital on Wednesday: piles of disintegrated concrete, with limbs sticking out and muffled cries emanating from deep inside; wounded people staggering through the streets; and bodies littering the landscape.

Huge swaths of Port-au-Prince lay in ruins, and thousands of people were feared dead in the rubble of government buildings, foreign aid headquarters and shantytowns that collapsed a day earlier in a powerful earthquake.

The Haitian president, René Préval, told The Miami Herald that the toll was “unimaginable” and estimated that thousands had died. Among those feared dead were the chief of the United Nations mission in Haiti and Msgr. Joseph Serge Miot, the archbishop of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

“Parliament has collapsed,” Mr. Préval was quoted as saying. “The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed. There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them.”

“All of the hospitals are packed with people,” he added. “It is a catastrophe.”

Haiti sits on a large fault that has caused catastrophic quakes in the past, but this one was described as among the most powerful to hit the region. The earthquake was the worst in the region in more than 200 years and left the country in a shambles, without electricity or phone service, tangling efforts to provide relief to an estimated 3 million people who the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said had been affected by the quake.

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said Haiti was now facing a “major humanitarian emergency” that would require a concerted international response.

President Obama promised that Haiti would have the “unwavering support” of the United States.

Mr. Obama said United States aid agencies were moving swiftly to get help to Haiti and that search-and-rescue teams were already en route. He described the reports of destruction as “truly heart-wrenching,” made more cruel given Haiti’s long-troubled circumstances.Mr. Obama did not make a specific aid pledge, and administration officials said they were still trying to figure out what the island needed. But he urged Americans to dig into their pockets and to go to the White House’s Web site,, to find ways to donate money.

“This is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share,” Mr. Obama said, speaking in the White House diplomatic reception room with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at his side.

Aid agencies said they would open their storehouses of food and water inside Haiti, and the World Food Program was flying in nearly 100 tons of ready-to-eat meals and high-energy biscuits from El Salvador. The United Nations said it was freeing up $10 million in emergency relief funds, the European Union pledged $4.4 million, and groups like Doctors Without Borders were setting up clinics in tents and open-air triage centers to treat the injured. But some aid groups with offices in Haiti’s capital were also busy searching for their own dead and missing.

Five workers with the United Nations mission in Haiti were killed and more than 100 more missing after the office’s headquarters collapsed in one of the deadliest single days for United Nations employees. The Tunisian head of the group’s Haitian mission, Hedi Annabi, and his deputy were among the missing, said Alain LeRoy, the United Nations peacekeeping chief.

Earlier Wednesday, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said in radio interviews that Mr. Annabi had been killed in the collapse.

The Brazilian Army, which has one of the largest peacekeeping presences in Haiti, said that four of its soldiers had been killed in the quake and five had been injured. In addition to the human toll, the heavy damage sustained by Haiti’s presidential palace and the United Nations headquarters were a blow to the two major symbols of authority in the country.

“The palace was like something out of a fairy tale in a country that had nothing,” said Johanna Mendelson Forman, a former adviser to the United Nations mission, who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It had red carpets and gold ropes. It was a symbol of one of the few institutions that works there, and that’s the presidency.”

On Wednesday the palace looked like a collapsed wedding cake, with its column-lined facade crumpled and its white domed roof caving in.

Paul McPhun, operations manager for Doctors Without Borders, described scenes of chaos.

When staff members tried to travel by car “they were mobbed by crowds of people,” Mr. McPhun said. “They just want help, and anybody with a car is better off than they are.”

He said that the main hospitals in Port-au-Prince had either collapsed or been abandoned because they were too structurally precarious.

“Our teams are managing what comes to them, but already we’re getting overwhelmed,” he said. “We’re struggling to manage. It’s a very chaotic situation. Information for us is very difficult to gather.”

Aid workers and journalists in the neighboring Dominican Republic swarmed the airport in Santo Domingo, hoping to catch a few emergency flights into Haiti, and a spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian office said aid would be sent into the country on commercial flights. The United Nations said the Port-au-Prince airport was open, but that the main road connecting it to the capital remained impassable. Other roads had been torn apart in the quake or were blocked by debris, making it more difficult to transport food, fresh water and first aid supplies, and hospitals were overwhelmed by the injured. In a place where there are constant blackouts, the electricity remained out during the early hours Wednesday, and telephones were not working.

More than 30 significant aftershocks of a 4.5 magnitude or higher rattled Haiti through the night and into the early morning, according to Amy Vaughan, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey. “We’ve seen a lot of shaking still happening,” she said.

Bob Poff, a Salvation Army official, said in a written account posted on the Salvation Army’s Web site how he had loaded injured victims — “older, scared, bleeding and terrified” — into the back of his truck and set off in search of help. In two hours, he managed to travel less than a mile, he said.

The account described how Mr. Poff and hundreds of neighbors spent the night outside, in the playground near a children’s home run by the group. Every tremor sent ripples of fear through the survivors, providing “another reminder that we are not yet finished with this calamity,” he wrote.

“And when it comes, all of the people cry out and the children are terrified,” he wrote.

Louise Ivers, the clinical director of the aid group Partners in Health, said in an e-mail to her colleagues: “Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS . . . Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us.”

A hospital collapsed in Pétionville, a hillside district in Port-au-Prince that is home to many diplomats and wealthy Haitians, a videographer for The Associated Press said. Photos from Haiti on Wednesday showed a hillside scraped nearly bare of its houses, which had tumbled into the ravine below.

Tequila Minsky, a photographer who was in Port-au-Prince, said a wall at the front of the Hotel Oloffson had fallen, killing a passer-by. A number of nearby buildings had crumbled, trapping people, she said, and a Unibank bank building was badly damaged. People were screaming.

“It was general mayhem,” Ms. Minsky said.

The earthquake struck just before 5 p.m. about 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, the United States Geological Survey said.

Haiti’s many man-made woes — its dire poverty, political infighting and proclivity for insurrection — have been exacerbated repeatedly by natural disasters. At the end of 2008, four hurricanes flooded whole towns, knocked out bridges and left a destitute population in even more desperate conditions.

Simon Romero reported from Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Marc Lacey from Mexico City. Reporting was contributed by Ginger Thompson and Brian Knowlton from Washington, Elisabeth Malkin from Mexico City, Neil MacFarquhar from New York and Mery Galanternick from Rio de Janeiro.

AP Photo/Medecins Sans Frontieres, Stefano Zannini.
This photo provided by Medecins Sans Frontieres shows wounded people gathered at the office of Medecins Sans Frontieres in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Wednesday Jan. 13, 2010. Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital Wednesday after the strongest earthquake hit the poor Caribbean nation in more than 200 years crushed thousands of structures, from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the U.N. peacekeeping headquarters.

Norwich Haitian ministry begins relief efforts; 2 Conn. residents rescued
Elissa Bass
Article published Jan 13, 2010

Despite having its mission house completely destroyed in Tuesday's earthquake, the Diocese of Norwich Haitian Ministries has no intention of giving up its commitment to the people of Haiti, a spokeswoman said this morning.

"We are committed to be with the Haitian people," said Emily Smack, the executive director for the Norwich Haitian Ministries. "One way or another we will be in Haiti."

The two Connecticut residents who were trapped for 10 hours in the collapsed mission house near Port-au-Prince were pulled out alive early this morning.  Jillian Thorp of Old Saybrook, the mission house's acting director, and Charles Dietsch of Southbury, were both rescued, according to Smack.  Smack said the ministry will begin organizing fund raising today. She said cash needs to be raised so that food and medicine can be purchased in the Dominican Republic and brought into Haiti.

"The airport is closed down and mobilizing and trying to containerize (donated items) ... by the time we get into Haiti all that would be of little use," Smack said. "They need medicine, food and shelter now."

Smack said now that the missionaries have been rescued, "our next thing to do is find out what's happened to our partners, the orphanages we support and the schoolchildren and the feeding programs. All of those take place in extremely adverse areas, so it will be a while before the dust settles."

Smack said the ministry's three-story building was totally destroyed, and everyone is "camping out in the driveway right now." She said the two injured Americans will be evacuated to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince today.

"I talked to Jill just a little while ago," Smack said this morning. Thorp and Dietsch were in the basement of the building when the earthquake hit.

"A male guard came and heard them banging on the metal and concrete and he went and got the others and they dug by hand," she said.

"We have four Haitian staff men who, once they knew their families were OK, they came back to that mission house to dig our staff out," Smack said.

Jillian Thorp's husband Frank is also in Haiti. He was about 100 miles away when the earthquake hit, Smack said, which is about a six-hour drive.

"He immediately hopped in a car and caught up with a group of medical students and brought them to the mission house," Smack said. "The miracle is, just as they were reaching Jill (in the rubble), her husband got there and he was actually the person who pulled her out."

Smack said Jillian Thorp "sounded remarkably good. She is badly bruised, cut up, lots of muscle pulls, and Chuck may have broken a leg and possibly some ribs."
A third person in the house at the time of the collapse, a Haitian housekeeper named Lanite, was pulled out alive but is in critical condition. Ministry spokeswoman Kyn Tolson said Lanite may have lost both her legs.  Smack said another Haitian employee at the mission, the daytime guard, remains unaccounted for.

The Norwich-based ministry workers are able to communicate with those on the island through the Internet, on Skype. Regular communication with Haiti is not possible.  Smack said she has been working the phones and been on Skype non-stop since she first got word of the catastrophe at 5 p.m., Tuesday. She went to New York City first thing this morning to be interviewed on the network news shows about the dramatic rescue of Thorp and Dietsch.  While they are working to get help to the island, it is an emotional time for the local ministry workers.

"We were just saying the other day that last year was so horrible (for Haiti), they had those five hurricanes right in a row, bam, bam, bam, and it was just devastating," Smack said, her voice welling with emotion. "Then we had the school collapse.

"This year, things seemed calm, road construction had started, the government was stable. And it's just like, if you let your guard down, I just don't know what to say ... They are not equipped to help, there is no major infrastructure to help these people. It's discouraging on one hand, but we have to stand with them, they are our brothers and sisters."

ivilians cannot get into Haiti, as the airport tower was destroyed and the airport is closed. More Connecticut residents were scheduled to go to Haiti next week and in early February with the Norwich mission. Smack said those plans are on hold.

"One thing we don't want to do is add to the confusion," she said. "We want to be helpful, not add to the chaos."

Haiti earthquake: Port-au-Prince rocked by 7.0 quake; buildings collapse, hundreds feared dead
Originally Published:Tuesday, January 12th 2010, 5:29 PM
Updated: Wednesday, January 13th 2010, 2:05 AM

A devastating quake left Haiti's capital in ruins, knocking down hospitals, high-rises, and churches Tuesday - and leveling the presidential palace...

The extent of the horror was only beginning to emerge. Near-complete power failures left Haiti, an impoverished island nation of 8million, largely cut off from the world. Efforts to rescue the injured and trapped were described as desperate. People were clawing at the debris with their bare hands, trying to save loved ones, witnesses said.  In the hilly neighborhood of Petionville, where a hospital fell on top of screaming patients, a visiting U.S. federal official said he saw a number of homes collapsed into a ravine.

"The sky is just gray with dust," Henry Bahn said. "I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance."

Haitian immigrants in New York City and elsewhere were frantically trying to contact relatives back home - and having no luck getting through.  The magnitude-7.0 quake hit right near Port-au-Prince at 4:53 p.m. and is believed to be the strongest quake in Haiti in more than 200 years. Two powerful aftershocks measuring 5.9 and 5.5 soon followed, further damaging structures weakened by the initial quake.

The quake struck just as Haiti was starting to show the first signs of recovery from the relentless battering of Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike in 2008, which killed hundreds and left 800,000 people homeless.

Famed Haitian musician Wyclef Jean, who has worked to improve conditions in his homeland, said he feared what will follow this "human disaster" - including looting.

"Idle hands will only make this tragedy worse," he warned.

He called on President Obama to quickly send in troops.

"The U.S. military is the only group trained and prepared to offer that assistance immediately," he said. "The international community must also rise to the occasion and help."

The UN peacekeeping force of 7,060 troops and 2,091 police, key to maintaining order in Haiti, is also in crisis. UN officials said their main security headquarters "sustained serious damage ... and a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for."

U.S. committed to help

Obama said the United States stands ready to help.

A State Department spokesman, Gordon Duguid, said search and rescue teams have already been dispatched to the quake-ravaged country.

U.S. Coast Guard officials in Miami have mobilized C-130 aircraft and cutters from ports in Florida, Virginia and New Hampshire.

"We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief," said Secretary of State Clinton. And her husband, former President Bill Clinton, the UN's special envoy for Haiti, promised his office was "committed to do whatever we can."

Obama received an update from his national security staff on the dire situation in Haiti Tuesday night.

"The President told them that he expects an aggressive, coordinated effort by the U.S. government," said an administration official.

Mobilizing assistance could prove difficult at first as the aid workers in country, many of them Americans, were also affected - and the main airport was damaged.

The Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich, Conn., reported two of its workers trapped in their Petionville mission house, which partially collapsed.

The two were identified as the mission's acting director, Jillian Thorp, and a consultant, Charles Dietsch. Thorp is the daughter-in-law of retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, the Navy's former chief information officer.

Frank Thorp said she called for help using her cell phone and reported her leg injured. The phone died at 8 p.m.

Elsewhere, Red Cross spokeswoman Abi Weaver reported trouble reaching the agency's ground workers.

The local headquarters of Save the Children was also damaged, said Ian Rodgers, its emergency response adviser, who is in Haiti. "Houses all around the headquarters are collapsed," he added.

Mayor Bloomberg said the city would collect cash donations.

He lauded the "special, close relationship" between Haiti and New York, given the 125,000 New Yorkers who hail from that nation.

"New York City stands ready to do all we can to help Haiti, as we have in the past," he said.

"On behalf of 8.4 million New Yorkers, nou ave'w - we are with you," Bloomberg said.

U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Kristin Marano called the quake the strongest since 1770. In 1946, a magnitude-8.1 quake struck the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, and also shook Haiti, producing a tsunami that killed 1,790 people.

Haiti was last rocked by a major-magnitude temblor, one measuring 6.7, in 1984.

Haiti hit by largest earthquake in over 200 years
By JONATHAN M. KATZ, Associated Press Writer
January 12, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The strongest earthquake in more than 200 years rocked Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital where people screamed for help and heavily damaging the National Palace, U.N. peacekeeper headquarters and other buildings. U.S. officials reported bodies in the streets and an aid official described "total disaster and chaos."

United Nations officials said a large number of U.N. personnel were unaccounted for.

Communications were widely disrupted, making it impossible to get a full picture of damage as powerful aftershocks shook a desperately poor country where many buildings are flimsy. Electricity was out in some places.

Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in Port-au-Prince, told U.S. colleagues before phone service failed that "there must be thousands of people dead," according to a spokeswoman for the aid group, Sara Fajardo.

"He reported that it was just total disaster and chaos, that there were clouds of dust surrounding Port-au-Prince," Fajardo said from the group's offices in Maryland.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington that embassy personnel were "literally in the dark" after power failed.

"They reported structures down. They reported a lot of walls down. They did see a number of bodies in the street and on the sidewalk that had been hit by debris. So clearly, there's going to be serious loss of life in this," he said.

Alain Le Roy, the U.N. peacekeeping chief in New York, said late Tuesday that the headquarters of the 9,000-member Haiti peacekeeping mission and other U.N. installations were seriously damaged.

"Contacts with the U.N. on the ground have been severely hampered," Le Roy said in a statement, adding: "For the moment, a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for."

Felix Augustin, Haiti's consul general in New York, said a portion of the National Palace had disintegrated.

"Buildings collapsed all over the place," he said. "We have lives that are destroyed. ... It will take at least two or three days for people to know what's going on."

An Associated Press videographer saw the wrecked hospital in Petionville, a hillside Port-au-Prince district that is home to many diplomats and wealthy Haitians, as well as many poor people. Elsewhere in the capital, a U.S. government official reported seeing houses that had tumbled into a ravine.

Kenson Calixte of Boston spoke to an uncle and cousin in Port-au-Prince shortly after the earthquake by phone. He could hear screaming in the background as his relatives described the frantic scene in the streets. His uncle told him that a small hotel near their home had collapsed, with people inside.

"They told me it was total chaos, a lot of devastation," he said. More than four hours later, he still was not able to get them back on the phone for an update.

Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Joseph, said from his Washington office that he spoke to President Rene Preval's chief of staff, Fritz Longchamp, just after the quake hit. He said Longchamp told him that "buildings were crumbling right and left" near the national palace. He too had not been able to get through by phone to Haiti since.

With phones down, some of the only communication came from social media such as Twitter. Richard Morse, a well-known musician who manages the famed Olafson Hotel, kept up a stream of dispatches on the aftershocks and damage reports. The news, based mostly on second-hand reports and photos, was disturbing, with people screaming in fear and roads blocked with debris. Belair, a slum even in the best of times, was said to be "a broken mess."

The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince at a depth of 5 miles (8 kilometers), the U.S. Geological Survey said. USGS geophysicist Kristin Marano called it the strongest earthquake since 1770 in what is now Haiti. In 1946, a magnitude-8.1 quake struck the Dominican Republic and also shook Haiti, producing a tsunami that killed 1,790 people.

The temblor appeared to have occurred along a strike-slip fault, where one side of a vertical fault slips horizontally past the other, said earthquake expert Tom Jordan at the University of Southern California. The earthquake's size and proximity to populated Port-au-Prince likely caused widespread casualties and structural damage, he said.

"It's going to be a real killer," he said. "Whenever something like this happens, you just hope for the best."

Most of Haiti's 9 million people are desperately poor, and after years of political instability the country has no real construction standards. In November 2008, following the collapse of a school in Petionville, the mayor of Port-au-Prince estimated about 60 percent of the buildings were shoddily built and unsafe in normal circumstances.

Tuesday's quake was felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, and some panicked residents in the capital of Santo Domingo fled from their shaking homes. But no major damage was reported there.

In eastern Cuba, houses shook but there were also no reports of significant damage.

"We felt it very strongly and I would say for a long time. We had time to evacuate," said Monsignor Dionisio Garcia, archbishop of Santiago.

The few reports emerging from Haiti made clear the country had suffered extensive damage.

"Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken," said Henry Bahn, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official visiting Port-au-Prince. "The sky is just gray with dust."

Bahn said he was walking to his hotel room when the ground began to shake.

"I just held on and bounced across the wall," he said. "I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance."

Bahn said there were rocks strewn about and he saw a ravine where several homes had stood: "It's just full of collapsed walls and rubble and barbed wire."

In the community of Thomassin, just outside Port-au-Prince, Alain Denis said neighbors told him the only road to the capital had been cut but that phones were all dead so it was hard to determine the extent of the damage.

"At this point, everything is a rumor," he said. "It's dark. It's nighttime."

Former President Bill Clinton, the U.N.'s special envoy for Haiti, issued a statement saying his office would do whatever he could to help the nation recover and rebuild.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti," he said.

President Barack Obama ordered U.S. officials to start preparing in case humanitarian assistance was needed.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said his government planned to send a military aircraft carrying canned foods, medicine and drinking water and also would dispatch a team of 50 rescue workers

Haitian musician Wyclef Jean urged his fans to donate to earthquake relief efforts, saying he had received text messages from his homeland reporting that many people had died.

"We must think ahead for the aftershock, the people will need food, medicine, shelter, etc.," Jean said on his Web site.

Brazil's government was trying to re-establish communications with its embassy and military personnel in Haiti late Tuesday, according to the G1 Web site of Globo TV. Brazil leads a 9,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force there.

Felix Augustin, Haiti's consul general in New York, said he was concerned about everyone in Haiti, including his relatives.

"Communication is absolutely impossible," he said. "I've been trying to call my ministry and I cannot get through. ... It's mind-boggling."

Page last updated at
02:34 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Haiti earthquake feared to have killed many - Haiti profile:
Image posted on Haitian website Radio Tele Ginen, said to show damage to buildings in the Haitian earthquake, 12 January
Haitian website Radio Tele Ginen has been posting images of ruined buildings and wrecked cars

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake which struck off the coast of Haiti is feared to have caused major loss of life in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's envoy to the US said it was a "catastrophe of major proportions".

Buildings, including a hospital, are said to have collapsed, and rescue efforts are under way.

The quake, which struck about 15km (10 miles) south-west of the capital, was quickly followed by two strong aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5 magnitude.

The tremor hit at 1653 (2153 GMT), the US Geological Survey said. Phone lines to the country failed shortly afterwards.

A Reuters reporter in Port-au-Prince said he had seen "dozens of dead and injured people" in the rubble of fallen buildings.

Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in Port-au-Prince, told colleagues in the US "there must be thousands of people dead".

The aid worker had managed to phone his colleagues before communication links went down.

The BBC's Nick Davies in neighbouring Jamaica says the ground apparently shook for more than a minute in Haiti.

Local people, he said, were using anything they could get their hands on - including farm equipment - to help release those trapped in the quake.

Our correspondent adds that, as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti is likely to need international aid in order to cope with the quake's impact.

'Three million affected'

US President Barack Obama said in a statement that his "thoughts and prayers" were with the people of Haiti and America stood ready to assist them.

I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance
Henry Bahn
US Department of Agriculture official, visiting Haiti

UN officials said they were having trouble contacting their mission in Haiti to get a clear picture of the aftermath.

"We are trying to get in touch with our people on the ground but we are experiencing communication problems, which is not unusual in a disaster such as this," spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker told AFP news agency in New York.

Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the US, told CNN: "I think it is really a catastrophe of major proportions."

He said he had just spoken to a government colleague in Port-au-Prince:

"He had to stop his car just about half an hour ago, and take to the streets, start walking, but he said houses were crumbling on the right side of the street and the left side of the street.

"He does not know whether he would reach his home, not knowing what he would find, because he had a bridge to cross to get there."


Mike Blanpied of the US Geological Survey said that, based on the location and size of the quake, about three million people will have been severely shaken by its impact.

"This quake occurred under land as opposed to off-shore, so a lot of people were directly exposed to the shaking coming off that earthquake fault, which was quite shallow," he told the BBC.

He added that as the quake had occurred near a highly populated urban area, the aftershocks could cause additional damage to already shaken buildings.

'Rubble and wire'

An Associated Press cameraman saw the wrecked hospital in Petionville, a hilly suburb of the capital, and Henry Bahn, a visiting official from the US Department of Agriculture, said he had seen houses which had tumbled into a ravine.

Half of Caribbean island of Hispaniola
History of violence, instability and dictatorship
Population of 10 million people
Most live on less than $2 a day
Democratic rule restored in 2006
Economy in ruins and unemployment is chronic
UN peacekeepers deployed - foreign aid seen as vital
Massive deforestation has left just 2% forest

"Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken," said Mr Bahn, who described the sky as "just grey with dust".

He said he had been walking to his hotel room when the ground began to shake.

"I just held on and bounced across the wall," he said.

"I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance."

He said rocks were strewn all over the place, and the ravine where several homes had fallen in was "just full of collapsed walls and rubble and barbed wire".

BBC News website readers in the Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, said they had also felt the quake.

"My family is on the 8th floor of a tower in downtown Santo Domingo," wrote Max Levine.

"We felt a swaying of the building for 5-10 seconds. All the lamps were swinging. There was a 20-second pause and then another similar sway. We rushed out of the building with many others to the street."

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, a tsunami watch was put out for Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, but this was later lifted.

6.5 Northern Calif. quake leaves jumble of debris
By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writers
January 10, 2010

EUREKA, Calif. – A powerful offshore earthquake that struck near the Northern California coast left a hodgepodge of debris for communities to sort through Sunday but spared residents any serious injury.

The 6.5 magnitude temblor hit at about 4:27 p.m. PST Saturday and was centered in the Pacific about 22 miles west of Ferndale. It was felt in towns more than 300 miles south into central California and as far north as central Oregon, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Ferndale is about 240 miles north of San Francisco.

Dozens of people suffered minor injuries and thousands lost power.

In Eureka, north of Ferndale, residents of an apartment building were evacuated, and an office building and two other commercial structures in the town of about 26,000 people were declared unsafe for occupancy, according to Humboldt County spokesman Phil Smith-Hanes.

"Our initial reports were that, though this was a pretty decent quake, we survived it well," Smith-Hanes said, adding that damage assessments would continue Sunday across the county.

Sandra Hall, owner of Antiques and Goodies, said furniture fell over, nearly all her lamps broke and the handful of customers in her store got a big scare. She said it was the most dramatic quake in the 30 years the Eureka store has been open.

"We'll be having a sale on broken china for those who like to do mosaics," she said.

More than a dozen aftershocks, some with magnitudes as powerful as 4.5, rumbled for several hours after the initial quake, which had a depth of nearly 10 miles.

Authorities on Saturday said no major injuries were reported. But several people received minor cuts and scrapes from broken glass at the Bayshore Mall in Eureka, and an elderly person fell and broke a hip, authorities said.

"We're mostly getting reports of bumps, bruises and hits on the head," said Laurie Watson Stone, a spokeswoman for St. Joseph Hospital, a 146-bed hospital in Eureka. "The emergency room is busy, but we haven't heard of any major injuries."

Amanda Nichols, a dispatcher for Eureka Police Department, said she received a report that an infant was struck in the head with some flying debris at the mall.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman J.D. Guidi said power outages were widespread across most of Humboldt County, affecting about 25,000 customers.

Nearly 10,000 remained without power some five hours after the quake, and some could remain without power through Sunday, said PG&E spokeswoman Janna Morris.

No damage was done to the company's former nuclear power plant outside Eureka, Morris said.

Several traffic lights fell and numerous residents reported water, gas and sewer leaks, Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services spokeswoman Jo Wattle said.

"People have chimneys down, and we're hearing about minor property damage and lots of glassware broken," Wattle said. "People are really shaken up. It was shaking pretty good, then it had a big jolt to it at the end."

Police in Ferndale, a town of about 1,500 residents, said the earthquake caused stucco to fall off City Hall and broke shop windows, strewing the historic downtown streets with glass shards.

"I thought a tire had blown off my truck because it was so hard to keep control of the vehicle," Officer Lindsey Frank said. "Power lines were swaying, and I could see people in the fields trying to keep their balance."

Eureka city spokesman Gary Bird said because the earthquake hit shortly before dark, only the city's old town received thorough surveys for damage. Authorities there found fallen bricks and parapets that had fallen off old structures, causing damage to adjacent buildings, he said.

"There are some frayed nerves, but I think we've come through this pretty well for the magnitude of earthquake we've had," Bird said.

Televisions tumbled and objects were knocked off walls in Arcata, a small town that's home to Humboldt State University, one resident said.

"The whole town is kind of freaked out right now," said Judd Starks, the kitchen manager at a bar and restaurant known as The Alibi.

California is one of the world's most seismically active regions. More than 300 faults crisscross the state, which sits atop two of Earth's major tectonic plates, the Pacific and North American plates. About 10,000 quakes each year rattle Southern California alone, although most of them are too small to be felt.

Earthquake strikes central Whidbey
South Whidbey RECORD
Jul 02 2009, 7:25 AM · UPDATED

An earthquake measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale hit about two miles east/southeast of Coupeville on Whidbey Island at 5:09 a.m. Wednesday morning.  There were no reports of injury or damage, according to Island County Sheriff Deputy Wylie Farr.

"It was apparently about 36 miles below the earth and most people don't even know about it," she said. "We checked with emergency services and I-COM and there were only a few reports."

University of Washington staff scientist Bill Steele said the event was similar to a 4.5-magnitude quake recorded under Poulsbo on Jan. 30.

"It was kind of a groaning of the Juan de Fuca plate that runs under the sound," he explained. "We have a number of them every year. Sometimes a lot of little quakes can indicate a larger strain is building."

He said there's still a lot science doesn't know, nor can anyone predict where a quake will strike.

"There's an 83 percent chance you could have a magnitude-seven earthquake right under you within the next six years. Or in the next 50 years," he said.

One early-morning riser felt the temblor.  Coupeville resident Julie Rosenthal felt the earthquake and knew what it was right away.

"I was kind of waking up anyway, but I knew it was an earthquake because I'm from California and I'm used to the feeling," Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal, who lives about six miles south of downtown Coupeville in the Admirals Cove neigborhood said that she had not heard if anyone in Coupeville center had felt it.

"My son Blake said he thought it sounded like the wind was hitting the house really hard."

Her daughter was sleeping outside in the playhouse with a girlfriend when they heard the quake.

"She thought it was the boys goofing around and banging on the windows. My boys, who are all Boy Scouts, said that they should get an emergency preparedness kit ready, just in case," she said.

The United States Geological Survey Web site — — reported that 16 Coupeville residents and 30 Oak Harbor residents called in about the quake.  The Richter magnitude scale assigns a single number to quantify the amount of seismic energy released by an earthquake, based on a 1 to 10 logarithmic scale. An earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger than one that measures 4.0.

Deep in Bedrock, Clean Energy and Quake Fears

June 24, 2009

BASEL, Switzerland — Markus O. Häring, a former oilman, was a hero in this city of medieval cathedrals and intense environmental passion three years ago, all because he had drilled a hole three miles deep near the corner of Neuhaus Street and Shafer Lane.

He was prospecting for a vast source of clean, renewable energy that seemed straight out of a Jules Verne novel: the heat simmering within the earth’s bedrock.

All seemed to be going well — until Dec. 8, 2006, when the project set off an earthquake, shaking and damaging buildings and terrifying many in a city that, as every schoolchild here learns, had been devastated exactly 650 years before by a quake that sent two steeples of the Münster Cathedral tumbling into the Rhine.

Hastily shut down, Mr. Häring’s project was soon forgotten by nearly everyone outside Switzerland. As early as this week, though, an American start-up company, AltaRock Energy, will begin using nearly the same method to drill deep into ground laced with fault lines in an area two hours’ drive north of San Francisco.

Residents of the region, which straddles Lake and Sonoma Counties, have already been protesting swarms of smaller earthquakes set off by a less geologically invasive set of energy projects there. AltaRock officials said that they chose the spot in part because the history of mostly small quakes reassured them that the risks were limited.

Like the effort in Basel, the new project will tap geothermal energy by fracturing hard rock more than two miles deep to extract its heat. AltaRock, founded by Susan Petty, a veteran geothermal researcher, has secured more than $36 million from the Energy Department, several large venture-capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Google. AltaRock maintains that it will steer clear of large faults and that it can operate safely.

But in a report on seismic impact that AltaRock was required to file, the company failed to mention that the Basel program was shut down because of the earthquake it caused. AltaRock claimed it was uncertain that the project had caused the quake, even though Swiss government seismologists and officials on the Basel project agreed that it did. Nor did AltaRock mention the thousands of smaller earthquakes induced by the Basel project that continued for months after it shut down.

The California project is the first of dozens that could be operating in the United States in the next several years, driven by a push to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases and the Obama administration’s support for renewable energy.

Geothermal’s potential as a clean energy source has raised huge hopes, and its advocates believe it could put a significant dent in American dependence on fossil fuels — potentially supplying roughly 15 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030, according to one estimate by Google. The earth’s heat is always there waiting to be tapped, unlike wind and solar power, which are intermittent and thus more fickle. According to a 2007 geothermal report financed by the Energy Department, advanced geothermal power could in theory produce as much as 60,000 times the nation’s annual energy usage. President Obama, in a news conference Tuesday, cited geothermal power as part of the “clean energy transformation” that a climate bill now before Congress could bring about.

Dan W. Reicher, an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration who is now director of climate change and energy at Google’s investment and philanthropic arm, said geothermal energy had “the potential to deliver vast amounts of power almost anywhere in the world, 24/7.”

Power companies have long produced limited amounts of geothermal energy by tapping shallow steam beds, often beneath geysers or vents called fumaroles. Even those projects can induce earthquakes, although most are small. But for geothermal energy to be used more widely, engineers need to find a way to draw on the heat at deeper levels percolating in the earth’s core.

Some geothermal advocates believe the method used in Basel, and to be tried in California, could be that breakthrough. But because large earthquakes tend to originate at great depths, breaking rock that far down carries more serious risk, seismologists say. Seismologists have long known that human activities can trigger quakes, but they say the science is not developed enough to say for certain what will or will not set off a major temblor.

Even so, there is no shortage of money for testing the idea. Mr. Reicher has overseen a $6.25 million investment by Google in AltaRock, and with more than $200 million in new federal money for geothermal, the Energy Department has already approved financing for related projects in Idaho by the University of Utah; in Nevada by Ormat Technologies; and in California by Calpine, just a few miles from AltaRock’s project.

Steven E. Koonin, the under secretary for science at the Energy Department, said the earthquake issue was new to him, but added, “We’re committed to doing things in a factual and rigorous way, and if there is a problem, we will attend to it.”

The tone is more urgent in Europe. “This was my main question to the experts: Can you exclude that there is a major earthquake triggered by this man-made activity?” said Rudolf Braun, chairman of the project team that the City of Basel created to study the risks of resuming the project.

“I was quite surprised that all of them said: ‘No, we can’t. We can’t exclude it,’ “ said Mr. Braun, whose study is due this year.

“It would be just unfortunate if, in the United States, you rush ahead and don’t take into account what happened here,” he said.

Basel’s Big Shock

By the time people were getting off work amid rain squalls in Basel on Dec. 8, 2006, Mr. Häring’s problems had already begun. His incision into the ground was setting off small earthquakes that people were starting to feel around the city.

Mr. Häring knew that by its very nature, the technique created earthquakes because it requires injecting water at great pressure down drilled holes to fracture the deep bedrock. The opening of each fracture is, literally, a tiny earthquake in which subterranean stresses rip apart a weak vein, crack or fault in the rock. The high-pressure water can be thought of loosely as a lubricant that makes it easier for those forces to slide the earth along the weak points, creating a web or network of fractures.

Mr. Häring planned to use that network as the ultimate teapot, circulating water through the fractures and hoping it emerged as steam. But what surprised him that afternoon was the intensity of the quakes because advocates of the method believe they can pull off a delicate balancing act, tearing the rock without creating larger earthquakes.

Alarmed, Mr. Häring and other company officials decided to release all pressure in the well to try to halt the fracturing. But as they stood a few miles from the drill site, giving the orders by speakerphone to workers atop the hole, a much bigger jolt shook the room.

“I think that was us,” said one stunned official.

Analysis of seismic data proved him correct. The quake measured 3.4 — modest in some parts of the world. But triggered quakes tend to be shallower than natural ones, and residents generally describe them as a single, explosive bang or jolt — often out of proportion to the magnitude — rather than a rumble.

Triggered quakes are also frequently accompanied by an “air shock,” a loud tearing or roaring noise.

The noise “made me feel it was some sort of supersonic aircraft going overhead,” said Heinrich Schwendener, who, as president of Geopower Basel, the consortium that includes Geothermal Explorers and the utility companies, was standing next to the borehole.

“It took me maybe half a minute to realize, hey, this is not a supersonic plane, this is my well,” Mr. Schwendener said.

By that time, much of the city was in an uproar. In the newsroom of the city’s main paper, Basler Zeitung, reporters dived under tables and desks, some refusing to move until a veteran editor barked at them to go get the story, said Philipp Loser, 28, a reporter there.

Aysel Mermer, 25, a waitress at the Restaurant Schiff near the Rhine River, said she thought a bomb had gone off.

Eveline Meyer, 44, a receptionist at a maritime exhibition, was on the phone with a friend and thought that her washing machine had, all by itself, started clattering with an unbalanced load. “I was saying to my friend, ‘Am I now completely nuts?’ “ Ms. Meyer recalled. Then, she said, the line went dead.

Mr. Häring was rushed to police headquarters in a squad car so he could explain what had happened. By the time word slipped out that the project had set off the earthquake, Mr. Loser said, outrage was sweeping the city. The earthquakes, including three more above magnitude 3, rattled on for about a year — more than 3,500 in all, according to the company’s sensors.

Although no serious injuries were reported, Geothermal Explorers’ insurance company ultimately paid more than $8 million in mostly minor damage claims to the owners of thousands of houses in Switzerland and in neighboring Germany and France.

Optimism and Opportunity

In the United States, where the Basel earthquakes received little news coverage, the fortunes of geothermal energy were already on a dizzying rise. The optimistic conclusions of the Energy Department’s geothermal report began driving interest from investors, as word trickled out before its official release.

In fall 2006, after some of the findings were presented at a trade meeting, Trae Vassallo, a partner at the firm Kleiner Perkins, phoned Ms. Petty, the geothermal researcher who was one of 18 authors on the report, according to e-mail messages from both women. That call eventually led Ms. Petty to found AltaRock and bring in, by Ms. Petty’s tally, another six of the authors as consultants to the company or in other roles.

J. David Rogers, a professor and geological engineer at the Missouri University of Science and Technology who was not involved in the report, said such overlap of research and commercial interests was common in science and engineering but added that it might be perceived as a conflict of interest. “It’s very, very satisfying to see something go from theory to application to actually making money and being accepted by society,” Professor Rogers said. “It’s what every scientist dreams of.”

Ms. Petty said that her first “serious discussions” with Ms. Vassallo about forming a company did not come until the report was officially released in late January 2007. That June, Ms. Petty founded AltaRock with $4 million from Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures, an investment firm based in California.

The Basel earthquake hit more than a month before the Energy Department’s report came out, but no reference to it was included in the report’s spare and reassuring references to earthquake risks. Ms. Petty said the document had already been at the printer by the fall, “so there was no way we could have included the Basel event in the report.”

Officials at AltaRock, with offices in Sausalito, Calif., and Seattle, insist that the company has learned the lessons of Basel and that its own studies indicate the project can be carried out safely. James T. Turner, AltaRock’s senior vice president for operations, said the company had applied for roughly 20 patents on ways to improve the method.

Mr. Turner also asserted in a visit to the project site last month that AltaRock’s monitoring and fail-safe systems were superior to those used in Basel.

“We think it’s going to be pretty neat,” Mr. Turner said as he stood next to a rig where the company plans to drill a hole almost two and a half miles deep. “And when it’s successful, we’ll have a good-news story that says we can extend geothermal energy.”

AltaRock, in its seismic activity report, included the Basel earthquake in a list of temblors near geothermal projects, but the company denied that it had left out crucial details of the quake in seeking approval for the project in California. So far, the company has received its permit from the federal Bureau of Land Management to drill its first hole on land leased to the Northern California Power Agency, but still awaits a second permit to fracture rock.

“We did discuss Basel, in particular, the 3.4 event, with the B.L.M. early in the project,” Mr. Turner said in an e-mail response to questions after the visit.

But Richard Estabrook, a petroleum engineer in the Ukiah, Calif., field office of the land agency who has a lead role in granting the necessary federal permits, gave a different account when asked if he knew that the Basel project had shut down because of earthquakes or that it had induced more than 3,500 quakes.

“I’ll be honest,” he said. “I didn’t know that.”

Mr. Estabrook said he was still leaning toward giving approval if the company agreed to controls that could stop the work if it set off earthquakes above a certain intensity. But, he said, speaking of the Basel project’s shutdown, “I wish that had been disclosed.”

Bracing for Tremors

There was a time when Anderson Springs, about two miles from the project site, had few earthquakes — no more than anywhere else in the hills of Northern California. Over cookies and tea in the cabin his family has owned since 1958, Tom Grant and his sister Cynthia Lora reminisced with their spouses over visiting the town, once famous for its mineral baths, in the 1940s and ’50s. “I never felt an earthquake up here,” Mr. Grant said .

Then came a frenzy of drilling for underground steam just to the west at The Geysers, a roughly 30-square-mile patch of wooded hills threaded with huge, curving tubes and squat power plants. The Geysers is the nation’s largest producer of traditional geothermal energy. Government seismologists confirm that earthquakes were far less frequent in the past and that the geothermal project produces as many as 1,000 small earthquakes a year as the ground expands and contracts like an enormous sponge with the extraction of steam and the injection of water to replace it.

These days, Anderson Springs is a mixed community of working class and retired residents, affluent professionals and a smattering of artists. Everyone has a story about earthquakes. There are cats that suddenly leap in terror, guests who have to be warned about tremors, thousands of dollars of repairs to walls and cabinets that just do not want to stay together.

Residents have been fighting for years with California power companies over the earthquakes, occasionally winning modest financial compensation. But the obscure nature of earthquakes always gives the companies an out, says Douglas Bartlett, who works in marketing at Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco, and with his wife, Susan, owns a bungalow in town.

“If they were creating tornadoes, they would be shut down immediately,” Mr. Bartlett said. “But because it’s under the ground, where you can’t see it, and somewhat conjectural, they keep doing it.”

Now, the residents are bracing for more. As David Oppenheimer, a seismologist at the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., explains it, The Geysers is heated by magma welling up from deep in the earth. Above the magma is a layer of granite-like rock called felsite, which transmits heat to a thick layer of sandstone-like material called graywacke, riddled with fractures and filled with steam.

The steam is what originally drew the power companies here. But the AltaRock project will, for the first time, drill deep into the felsite. Mr. Turner said that AltaRock, which will drill on federal land leased by the Northern California Power Agency, had calculated that the number of earthquakes felt by residents in Anderson Springs and local communities would not noticeably increase.

But many residents are skeptical.

“It’s terrifying,” said Susan Bartlett, who works as a new patient coordinator at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco. “What’s happening to all these rocks that they’re busting into a million pieces?”

Strong earthquake shakes tall buildings in Mexico City, sends people running into streets
Associated Press Writer
2:21 AM EDT, May 23, 2009

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A strong earthquake swayed skyscrapers in Mexico City and rattled colonial buildings in neighboring Puebla state Friday, sending frightened people into the streets. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.  The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 5.7 and was centered 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of the capital. The Mexican seismological service measured it at 5.9.

Puebla state civil protection chief German Garcia said there were no reports of injuries or collapsed buildings near the epicenter: "There is absolute calm, zero damage."

Puebla city is a popular tourist destination known for its gilded churches and ornate "Talavera" pottery. One of the country's main Talavera producers, Uriarte, said the quake shook shelves but the merchandise emerged unscathed.  In Mexico City, 20-year-old office worker Mariana Rodriguez was in a 19th-floor bathroom when she felt her building sway.

"I saw in the mirror that everything was moving," she said. "The soap even fell down. We were really nervous, but they didn't let us leave the building."

One 15-story apartment building in the trendy Condesa neighborhood rocked so much that doors opened and slammed shut — something the residents said sounded like "ghosts."

Many ran outside across the metropolis of 20 million. Evacuation officials steered crowds away from power lines and other potential hazards, and anxious people waited for several minutes before returning indoors.

Others immediately got on Facebook and Twitter to tell friends and family they were OK. Some said their cell phone service was knocked out.  Friday's earthquake was stronger and closer to the capital than one that hit last month. But Bruce Tresgrave of the U.S. Geological Survey said it was 35 miles (56 kilometers) below ground — deeper than normal — and thus unlikely to cause major damage.  Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard also said no damage was reported, and the capital's water system, hospitals and subway were not affected. Officials were conducting a more detailed survey.

The capital has lived through powerful earthquakes, including one in 1985 that killed as many as 10,000 people. Parts of Mexico City rest on the shaky soil of a former lake bed, which tends to magnify the effect of earthquakes.

Small Earthquake Noted Near SC Coast; No Injuries
Filed at 5:11 p.m. ET
May 6, 2009

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- A weak earthquake has been recorded near the South Carolina coast, but officials say there are no immediate reports of damages or injuries.

The Earthquake Hazards Program of the U.S. Geological Survey said the 2.5 magnitude temblor was recorded near Summerville just after 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The epicenter was near a fault blamed for a deadly magnitude 7.3 earthquake in 1886 that killed more than 100.

Last December, a 3.6 magnitude quake tipped over Christmas trees, knocked pictures off walls and caused minor injuries.

Erin Beutel, a College of Charleston geologist, said quakes have been recorded this year near Columbia, between Orangeburg and Aiken, and north of Florence. None caused damage.


POMPEI was a volcano...classic story (r).
2013 Christmas week, this news;  click here to see history of earthquakes in Italy.

Earthquake Felt in Large Parts of Southern Italy
December 29, 2013

ROME — An earthquake hit areas of southern Italy on Sunday, sending many residents out on to the streets.

The quake, which was measured by the U.S. Geological Survey at 5.2 magnitude and by Italian scientists at about 4.9, was felt in densely populated cities such as Naples, Avellino and Caserta.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Erica Billingham)

10 reported dead in Italy in 5.8-magnitude quake
Washington Times
By Colleen Barry, Associated Press
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

MILAN (AP) — A magnitude-5.8 earthquake hit northern Italy on Tuesday, killing at least 10 people in the same region still struggling to recover from another fatal tremor on May 20.

Premier Mario Monti pledged in a hastily called news conference that the government will do “all that it must and all that is possible in the briefest period to guarantee the resumption of normal life in this area that is so special, so important and so productive for Italy.”

The quake, which struck just after 9 a.m. local time (3 a.m. EDT), was centered 25 miles northwest of Bologna, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was just miles from where a 6.0 temblor killed seven people earlier this month. The quake was felt from Piedmont in northwestern Italy to Venice in the northeast, and as far north as Austria.

The ANSA news agency reported that 10 people had died, while the LaPresse news agency said others were still buried under the rubble of collapsed homes and factories. Concordia Mayor Carlo Marchini confirmed the death of one person struck by falling debris in the town’s historic center.

The mayor of San Felice sul Panaro told Sky News 24 that there were fatalities in his town. News media said a tower in the town had collapsed.

As far away as Milan, tall buildings and schools were evacuated as a precaution before people were allowed to re-enter. Train lines connecting Bologna with other northern cities were stopped while authorities checked for any damage.

When the quake hit Tuesday, Mr. Monti was meeting with emergency officials in Rome to discuss the impact of the earlier quake, which struck in the middle of the night and left at least 7,000 homeless.

Television footage on Sky News 24 showed evacuees from the May 20 quake peering out of their shaking emergency tents in disbelief. In the first quake, four of the victims were working overnight shifts in factories that collapsed; the other three died of heart conditions or other illnesses brought on by fear.

Resident were taking tentative steps toward resuming normal life when the second quake struck. In the town of Sant’Agostino, a daycare center had just reopened. In the town of Concordia, the mayor had scheduled a town meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the aftermath of the first quake.

The May 20 quake was described by Italian emergency officials as the worst to hit the region since the 1300s. In addition to the deaths, it knocked down a clock tower and other centuries-old buildings and caused millions in losses to a region known for making Parmesan cheese. Its epicenter was about 22 miles north of Bologna.

Deadly Earthquake in North Italy Causes Wide Damage
May 20, 2012

ROME — An earthquake struck the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna on Sunday, killing at least five people, injuring dozens, leaving thousands homeless and damaging historic buildings as well as warehouses and factories, officials said.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.0 according to the United States Geological Survey, crumbled church roofs and Renaissance-era towers, television images showed. Large cracks rippled through apartment blocks in dozens of small towns, leaving scores homeless.

Three men working the night shift in two different factories on the outskirts of the small town of Sant’Agostino died when the buildings in which they were working collapsed. Another was killed outside of Bondeno. Italy’s National Civil Protection Agency said in a note that a woman had died of causes resulting from the shock of the quake. Giovanni Gregori, an earthquake expert with Italy’s national research council, said on Sky News Italia that given the magnitude of the quake, the death toll “could have been much worse.”

The civil protection agency also said that at least 3,000 people were left homeless, the news service ANSA reported. Many areas of Italy are considered to be at high risk for earthquakes.

A quake in 1976 killed nearly a thousand people in Friuli Venezia Giulia, and almost 3,000 died in the Campania earthquake of 1980.

Three years ago, an earthquake in the area of L’Aquila, in central Italy, killed more than 300 people. While rebuilding has advanced in many villages in the region, the historic center of L’Aquila itself remains a ghost town and there has been public outcry over delays in reconstruction there.

But in Emilia Romagna, seismic events of this kind have been more rare. Mr. Gregori said that the last quake of this magnitude in the area was in the 14th century. “For man, seven centuries are a lot, for nature it is nothing,” he said.

Other geophysicists cited an earthquake that severely damaged Ferrara in 1570 as another precedent.

“We’re not used to events of this kind,” said Giovanni Morandi, editor in chief of Il Resto Del Carlino, a local daily newspaper.

Minor aftershocks were felt in the region Sunday morning, and many churches canceled services. The main quake was felt throughout northern and central Italy, “for hundreds of kilometers, there was a considerable release of energy,” said Stefano Gresta, a geophysicist and president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

Mr. Gresta said that aftershocks could continue for days, “and we can’t even exclude a significant quake like the one this morning,” he said.

On Sunday afternoon, another tremor initially measured at a magnitude of 5.1 by the U.S.G.S., caused further havoc, felling other structures, and hampering the work of rescue teams.

Areas in some of the hardest-hit towns, scattered across a vast swath of Italy’s agricultural heartland, were cordoned off while officials expressed concern about the stability of some historic buildings.

After an initial survey of the area’s culturally relevant monuments and churches, the Culture Ministry said in a note that the damage had been extensive. Ministry experts were working with civil protection agency officials and firefighters to monitor the situation, and three state museums in Ferrara had been closed, the ministry said.

Engineers and surveyors traveled through the area monitoring roads and bridges, according to Stefano Vaccari, the lawmaker who oversees the civil protection agency for Modena Province. Railway lines, roads and telecommunications had returned to normal, except for one secondary train line, the National Civil Protection Agency said.

Officials said that schools would be closed for several days, and that makeshift camps, able to house many hundreds, would be set up in various towns for those in need of shelter.

At Least 92 Die in Earthquake in Italy

April 7, 2009

L’AQUILA, Italy — More than 90 people died and tens of thousands were left homeless when a 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook central Italy early Monday, seriously damaging buildings in the mountainous Abruzzo Region east of Rome, officials said.  Aftershocks shuddered through the area during the day, hampering rescue efforts as people clawed through the debris by hand, frantically seeking survivors.

Most of the deaths were in L’Aquila, a picturesque medieval fortress hill town, where the quake split the cupola of the 18th-century Santa Maria del Sofraggio church like an eggshell, exposing the stucco patterns inside the dome.  Other historic buildings were also damaged in L’Aquila, the quake’s epicenter. Italian authorities assisted elderly residents in leaving the historic main square, where they had fled in search of safety.

The narrow streets of the historic center were filled with rubble, and parked cars were crushed under large blocks of debris. Outside a damaged convent, a dozen nuns still dressed in bright orange and blue bathrobes climbed into a van headed to an assistance center. Sister Lidia, the mother superior, said an 82-year old nun had died of shock.

“The quake, it was very strong,” she said.

The Italian news agency, ANSA, quoted rescue workers in mid-afternoon as saying the death toll had reached 92 and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi saying that 1500 people had been injured. A spokesman for Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said on national television that an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people had been left homeless.  Reports from the areas said that at least 26 towns had been affected by the earthquake. “Some towns in the area have been virtually destroyed in their entirety,” Gianfranco Fini, speaker of the lower house of Parliament, said in Rome before the chamber observed a moment of silence.

Mr. Berlusconi canceled a trip to Moscow to travel to L’Aquila, where he surveyed the damage by helicopter. “At the moment 4,000 rescuers are at work and concentrating on extracting people from the rubble,” he said, according to ANSA.

The situation is “extremely critical, as many buildings have collapsed,” Luca Spoletini, a spokesman for the civil protection agency, told ANSA shortly after the quake struck.

Four children died in the hospital after their house collapsed, ANSA reported. A fifth child died in the village of Fossa, eight miles from L’Aquila, a town of 80,000.  The quake struck around 3:30 a.m. and could be felt as far away as Rome, some 60 miles to the west, where it rattled furniture and set off car alarms. The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake that hit L’Aquila had a magnitude of 6.3, the most violent of several quakes to hit the region overnight.

Part of a student dormitory in L’Aquila collapsed, and initial reports said one person died and seven people were missing in the debris. At midday, shaken students sat outside the rubble of the four-story dormitory, expressing fears for the fate of others who may not have survived.

“We’re waiting for my son,” said a distraught-looking mother who declined to give her name. She stood among a knot of anxious onlookers and hid her red eyes behind large sunglasses.

“This shouldn’t have happened,” said Gabriele Magrini, 21, a physics student at L’Aquila University, who had been across town at a friend’s house when the quake struck. He said he had been waiting at the university since 4 a.m., adding: “We’ve only seen two people come out. We’re still waiting for 10.”

There was a first shock after 11 p.m., Mr. Magrini said, adding that he hadn’t realized how bad the major shock had been until he saw the destruction.  Damage to buildings was visible throughout the city, including at the town’s main cathedral.  On Monday afternoon, the Italian Culture Ministry posted a list of historical monuments that had been damaged in L’Aquila, including the steeple of the church of San Bernardino; a small cupola in the church of Sant’Agostino; the cupola of the church of the Suffragio; a palazzo housing the state archives; part of the transept of the basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio; and parts of the 16th century castle that houses the National Museum of Abruzzo, which has been closed to the public.

The worst hit seemed to be the city center in L’Aquila, but the modern buildings in the outer part of the city were also affected. Residents wheeling dusty suitcases wandered through the streets as rescue workers sifted through the rubble. Electricity, phone and gas lines were also reported damaged.

“It’s a disaster never before seen,” said Franco Totani, a lawyer who said he was born in L’Aquila and was leaving the town to stay at an elderly uncle’s house in Rome. “I’ve seen earthquakes before but this is a catastrophe.”

People in surrounding cities in the Abruzzo and Marche regions also rushed into the streets, fearing their houses would collapse.  In a letter to the archbishop of L’Aquila, the Vatican secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone, wrote that Pope Benedict XVI was praying “for the victims, in particular for children.”

Speaking on Rainews 24, Guido Bertolaso, Italy’s top civil protection official said that the earthquake was “comparable if not superior to the one which struck Umbria in 1997.” That quake killed 10 people and damaged medieval buildings and churches across the region, including Assisi’s famed basilica.

Seismic activity is relatively common in Italy, but intensity like that of Monday’s quake is rare. The L’Aquila quake was the worst to hit Italy since 1980, when a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck Eboli, south of Naples, leaving more than 2,700 people dead.

The last major quake to hit central Italy struck the south-central Molise region on Oct. 31, 2002, killing 28 people, including 27 children who died when their school collapsed.

Everett, Wash.
Small quake rattles Puget Sound area; no reports of damage
Associated Press
Published: Friday, January 30, 2009

SEATTLE -- There are no immediate reports of damage from a 4.5 magnitude earthquake that rattled the Seattle and Puget Sound area at 5:25 a.m. today. But it woke a lot of people up.

The U.S. Geological Survey says it was centered 16 miles northwest of Seattle near Kingston, in Kitsap County.

The Geological Survey initially reported it as a 4.6 quake, but the University of Washington report on the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network listed it at 4.5.

The network shows it was felt throughout the Puget Sound area in Western Washington, and people reported feeling it in Victoria, British Columbia, 71 miles to the north.

The shaking woke up Robert Lyden on Anderson Island in Puget Sound.

"It shook the house like something had hit the roof," he said. "It just woke us up." Other than knocking a water fountain off his deck there was no damage.

Lacey Menne says it shook her home as she was preparing to go to work at the Coastal Cafe in Kingston.

"It wasn't strong enough to make anything fall," she said. "It was like, what is that? I think it might be an earthquake. It's totally an earthquake!"

Seattle radio and TV stations report callers around the Puget Sound area felt the shaking for 10 or 15 seconds.
© 2009The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA 

Pre-quake changes seen in rocks 
9 July 2008

Scientists have made an important advance in their efforts to predict earthquakes, the journal Nature says.

A team of US researchers has detected stress-induced changes in rocks that occurred hours before two small tremors in California's San Andreas Fault.

The observations used sensors lowered down holes drilled into the quake zone.

The team says we are a long way from routine tremor forecasts but the latest findings hold out hope that such services might be possible one day.

"If you had 10 hours' warning, from a practical point of view, you could evacuate populations, you could certainly get people out of buildings, you could get the fire department ready," said co-author Paul Silver of the Carnegie Institution of Science, Washington.

"Hurricane [warnings] give you an idea of what could be done," he told BBC News...The new work comes out of the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (Safod) project which has been set up in Parkfield, a tiny rural town halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco...

History of deadly earthquakes
Page last updated at
10:39 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 11:39 UK
Kobe scene
The 1995 Kobe earthquake highlighted Japan's lack of disaster preparation

Earthquakes have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the last 100 years and improvements in technology have only slightly reduced the death toll.

6 April 2009

Scores die in Italy as a powerful earthquake hits the historic central city of L'Aquila.

29 October 2008

Up to 300 people are killed in the Pakistani province of Balochistan after an earthquake of 6.4 magnitude struck 70km (45 miles) north of Quetta.

12 May 2008:

Up to 87,000 people are killed or missing and as many as 370,000 injured by an earthquake in just one county in China's south-western Sichuan province.

The tremor, measuring 7.8, struck 92km (57 miles) from the provincial capital Chengdu during the early afternoon.

15 August 2007:

At least 519 people are killed in Peru's coastal province of Ica, as a 7.90-magnitude undersea earthquake strikes about 145km (90 miles) south-east of the capital, Lima.

17 July 2006:

A 7.7 magnitude undersea earthquake triggers a tsunami that strikes a 200km (125-mile) stretch of the southern coast of Java, killing more than 650 people on the Indonesian island.

27 May 2006:

More than 5,700 people die when a magnitude 6.2 quake hits the Indonesian island of Java, devastating the city of Yogyakarta and surrounding areas.

1 April 2006:

Seventy people are killed and some 1,200 injured when an earthquake measuring 6.0 strikes a remote region of western Iran.

8 October 2005:

An earthquake measuring 7.6 strikes northern Pakistan and the disputed Kashmir region, killing more than 73,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

28 March 2005:

About 1,300 people are killed in an 8.7 magnitude quake off the coast of the Indonesian island of Nias, west of Sumatra.

22 February 2005:

Hundreds die in a 6.4 magnitude quake centred in a remote area near Zarand in Iran's Kerman province.

26 December 2004:

Hundreds of thousands are killed across Asia when an earthquake measuring 9.2 triggers sea surges that spread across the region.

24 February 2004:

At least 500 people die in an earthquake which strikes towns on Morocco's Mediterranean coast.

26 December 2003:

More than 26,000 people are killed when an earthquake destroys the historic city of Bam in southern Iran.

21 May 2003:

Algeria suffers its worst earthquake in more than two decades. More than 2,000 people die and more than 8,000 are injured in a quake felt across the sea in Spain.

1 May 2003:

More than 160 people are killed, including 83 children in a collapsed dormitory, in south-eastern Turkey.

24 February 2003:

More than 260 people die and almost 10,000 homes are destroyed in Xinjiang region, in western China.

31 October 2002:

Italy is traumatised by the loss of an entire class of children, killed in the southern village of San Giuliano di Puglia when their school building collapses on them.

26 January 2001:

An earthquake measuring magnitude 7.9 devastates much of Gujarat state in north-western India, killing nearly 20,000 people and making more than a million homeless. Bhuj and Ahmedabad are among the towns worst hit.

12 November 1999:

Around 400 people die when an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale strikes Ducze, in north-west Turkey.

21 September 1999:

Taiwan is hit by a quake measuring 7.6 that kills nearly 2,500 people and causes damage to every town on the island.

17 August 1999:

An magnitude 7.4 earthquake rocks the Turkish cities of Izmit and Istanbul, leaving more than 17,000 dead and many more injured.

30 May 1998:

Northern Afghanistan is hit by a major earthquake, killing 4,000 people.

May 1997:

More than 1,600 killed in Birjand, eastern Iran, in an earthquake of magnitude 7.1.

27 May 1995:

The far eastern island of Sakhalin is hit by a massive earthquake, measuring 7.5, which claims the lives of 1,989 Russians.

17 January 1995:

The Hyogo quake hits the city of Kobe in Japan, killing 6,430 people.

30 September 1993:

About 10,000 villagers are killed in western and southern India.

21 June 1990:

Around 40,000 people die in a tremor in the northern Iranian province of Gilan.

7 December 1988:

An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale devastates north-west Armenia, killing 25,000 people.

19 September 1985:

Mexico City is shaken by a huge earthquake which razes buildings and kills 10,000 people.

28 July 1976:

The Chinese city of Tangshan is reduced to rubble in a quake that claims at least 250,000 lives.

23 December 1972:

Up to 10,000 people are killed in the Nicaraguan capital Managua by an earthquake that measures 6.5 on the Richter scale. The devastation caused by the earthquake was blamed on badly built high-rise buildings that easily collapsed.

31 May 1970:

An earthquake high in the Peruvian Andes triggers a landslide burying the town of Yungay and killing 66,000 people.

26 July 1963:

An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale strikes the Macedonian capital of Skopje killing 1,000 and leaving 100,000 homeless.

22 May 1960:

The world's strongest recorded earthquake devastates Chile, with a reading of 9.5 on the Richter scale. A tsunami 30ft (10m) high eliminates entire villages in Chile and kills 61 hundreds of miles away in Hawaii.

1 September 1923:

The Great Kanto earthquake, with its epicentre just outside Tokyo, claims the lives of 142,800 people in the Japanese capital.

18 April 1906:

San Francisco is hit by a series of violent shocks which last up to a minute. Between 700 and 3,000 people die either from collapsing buildings or in the subsequent fire.



Remember Hurricanes Gustof & Katrina?  Germinated in the Gulf of Mexico (l &c).  And how about Richard (r)?.  Hurricane Carol was "About Town's" personal experience...

...Hurricane forecasters acknowledged that they did not quite call the storm right.
The rollercoaster of weather forecasting - watch those windy externalities, root for cold fronts!  Is that Sen. Blumenthal in the back?  Rosa from Tuscany, no GOP in this photo op.

Bloomberg Outlines $20 Billion Storm-Protection Plan
June 11, 2013

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg outlined a far-reaching plan on Tuesday to protect New York City from the threat of rising sea levels and powerful storm surges by building an extensive network of flood walls, levees and bulkheads to guard much of the city’s 520 miles of coastline.. .full article here.

Unlinke what Tropical Storm Irene didn't do to Manhattan, Category 3 hurricane would be a different about these storms?

Experts: Category 3 hurricane would devastate CT

Ken Dixon, Staff Writer
Updated 11:06 a.m., Tuesday, October 25, 2011

HARTFORD -- A Category 3 hurricane with winds of over 110 miles per hour could knock down 70 to 80 percent of Connecticut's trees and paralyze the state for more than a month.

The governor's task force on the effects of Tropical Storm Irene got the sobering facts Tuesday from state and federal officials who said another Category 3 hurricane similar to the infamous 1938 storm is inevitable and requires advanced planning.

Glenn Field, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, told the panel that a Category 3 hurricane comes every 69 years, with the last such storm in 1954.

"What we've seen with Tropical Storm Irene is nothing compared to a major hurricane," said Doug Glowacki, a state emergency program specialist.

In Irene’s Wake, High and Dry Enough?
September 30, 2011

WHEN Hurricane Irene roared up the East Coast this summer and drew a bead on Manhattan, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were surprised to learn they had something in common: They were living in Evacuation Zone A and potentially at imminent risk of being flooded out of their homes.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared a state of emergency, shut down mass transit and urged some 300,000 people to flee to higher ground. But aside from some soggy streets, frayed nerves and a miserable Monday commute, New York City was spared the worst of the storm.

It did, however, put a spotlight on the city’s waterfront, where in recent years, hundreds of millions of dollars of public money has been spent to improve parks, build esplanades and create the infrastructure necessary for residential development.

The construction of pricey rental and condo towers along the shoreline, in neighborhoods like Battery Park City, Long Island City and Williamsburg, has transformed warehouse and wharf districts. New buildings and planned projects will add thousands of apartments over the next decade, helping ease a projected housing crunch as the city’s population balloons past nine million people.

In 2008, council members revised the building code to recognize the city as being within a hurricane-prone region. Under the updated code, all new building design and construction is required to be hurricane-resistant.

In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, builders and real estate brokers say that new developments are adequately protected from storms. Yet despite those assurances, Irene brought into sharp relief the fact that building on a shoreline comes with risks, even in a city where nature can seem to have been nearly completely tamed.

Carli Iannotto, a 25-year-old office manager, was in her apartment at 2 Gold Street, a 51-story downtown rental tower, as the storm approached. If she had had her druthers, she would have left her $3,095-a-month one-bedroom and stayed with her parents.

“I was very, very nervous the whole time,” Ms. Iannotto said, “But my boyfriend was adamant about staying.”

And as she watched neighbors load up their luggage and leave, she said she became “even more freaked out.”

Having come through the storm unscathed, Ms. Iannotto says she isn’t worried about living on the waterfront. But even before the storm, she and her boyfriend planned to move to a new apartment well inland in Williamsburg.

“I don’t think most people are concerned about living on the water,” she said. Even so, she said, she is glad that in her new home she will not have to think about evacuation routes.

The city is studying ways to limit damage from storm surges and flooding, some already adopted by developers. Those outlined in the city’s comprehensive waterfront development plan, “Vision 2020,” include the installation of retractable water-tight gates at the entryways of buildings; investing in the maintenance of seawalls and bulkheads; creating “soft edges” along the shoreline that can accommodate surging tides; and restoring or creating wetlands and barrier islands.

The city says such measures would help protect against the long-term effects of climate change, which by raising sea levels will not only alter the shape of the shoreline but also heighten the severity of flooding from even minor storms.

According to “Vision 2020,” sea levels by 2050 could be 12 to 29 inches higher than they are today. By 2080, they could be some 55 inches higher.

Given the breadth of New York Harbor and the various bays and estuaries, rising sea levels and the threat of storm surges could affect wide swaths of the region. As Hurricane Irene approached — even though it was downgraded at the last minute to tropical storm status — evacuation orders were issued from Long Island and the Rockaways to Jersey City and Hoboken.

Jon McMillan, the director of planning for the developer TF Cornerstone, which has riverfront projects in Queens, said his company was well aware of the challenges of building on the waterfront.

More than three decades ago he worked on Battery Park City, the project that in many ways set the template for waterfront development to come.

“The original plan, dating back to the 1960s, was to have the whole project raised to 32 feet above sea level,” Mr. McMillan said. Using land taken from the digging of the massive foundation for the World Trade Towers, the idea was to create an elevated neighborhood, cut off from the water.

“Back then we had a much more defensive attitude toward the water,” he said. It was not so much storms and sea levels that gave planners pause, but rather the fact that the shoreline was not considered attractive — although that is hard to believe nowadays. Visitors to the neighborhood would have driven down the West Side Highway, entered a parking garage and then taken an elevator up to the enclave of Battery Park City.

Largely because of the cost, however, that plan fell through, leading to the creation of Battery Park City as we know it today, he said.

“We wanted to pull the adjacent context of the city right up to the shoreline,” he said.

At its lowest point, on the esplanade on the southern tip of Manhattan, Battery Park City is only seven feet above sea level. As it turns out, the storm surge from Irene did slosh over the esplanade’s surface.

Personal safety aside, a concern in every coastal area is the effect of a big storm on property values.

Gary L. Malin, the president of the Citi Habitats, a large rental brokerage firm, described the impact of Tropical Storm Irene as “a nonevent.”

 “There is always a segment of the population that is supercautious,” he said, “but that is maybe a handful of people at best. We have not seen any renters shy away from that neighborhood,” he added, referring to Battery Park City.

Pamela Liebman, the president of the Corcoran Group, said, “It would take more than a few inches of water to keep New Yorkers from buying a property they love.”

Real estate analysts say that even when property is damaged in a storm, a single event does not have long-term impact on values.

“If you are dislocated for a day and half out of Battery Park City, you shrug it off,” said Barry F. Hersh, a clinical associate professor at the Schack Institute of Real Estate of New York University. “If something really bad happens it will affect values, but they tend to rebound if it is a single event. It is amazing how quickly people forget.”

But if there are repeated events, he said, values do take a tumble. Mr. Hersh cited a study that examined the coastal housing market in Carteret County, N.C. Between 2000 and 2004, the price of a home considered to be at a heightened risk of flooding was 7.3 percent lower — $11,600 on average — than a property that was high and dry.

The major projects under way along the water today, including Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan, Queens West in Long Island City, and a new phase of the Edge in Brooklyn, take the approach that building bulkheads or armoring the waterfront is not sufficient. (The “Vision 2020” report says that tactic “would not adequately address risks, would become increasingly costly, and would have negative ecological consequences for our waterways and coastal areas.”)

Mr. McMillan of TF Cornerstone is once again working on a major waterfront development, Queens West, on the site of a former Pepsi bottling company near the foot of the 59th Street Bridge. Four of the seven buildings have been completed, and each, he said, was designed to take into account the threat of storms, floods, rising sea levels and pressure that the river generates on the ground beneath the structures, he said.

“We can deal with minor flooding,” he added, “but what we were chiefly concerned about was protecting the vital infrastructure of the buildings.”

Although it added several million dollars to the cost of each building and was not required by zoning regulations, the developer decided to eliminate basements, which is usually where things like boilers and electrical equipment are kept. This move also meant losing valuable square footage.

 “We moved all the vital equipment to the first floor,” he said. The floors at this level are double slabs of concrete with a watertight seal in between them. There are floodgates that can be employed in the event of a storm.

“There is a lot we know now that we did not know when we did Battery Park City,” Mr. McMillan said. “Over all, I think we have the right balanced approach to the waterfront today.”

At Queens West, many of the precautions taken in the design and layout of the buildings are hidden from view.

Christine Martin, 31, lives at one of the rental buildings, at 1510 Center Boulevard. She said she was unaware that her building had no basement, and was not concerned about living in the evacuation zone, although she did leave during Tropical Storm Irene.

“I only left because they said the elevator would not be working and I did not want to walk down 15 flights of stairs with my dog,” Ms. Martin said.

“Really, the only thing I was a little nervous about was all the construction equipment around here getting tossed around,” she said. “But I don’t worry about living on the water.”

Flood warning posted for Housatonic
Updated 05:49 p.m., Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The rising Housatonic River is nearing its 11-foot flood stage. At the Stevenson Dam between Oxford and Monroe, the river had reached 10.2-feet at 3 p.m. According to the latest river forecast the Housatonic will reach flood stage overnight with the highest water level expected to reach 12.6 feet by 2 p.m Thursday.

That forecast makes flooding in The Maples section of Shelton likely. That's the second time in about a week since Tropical Storm Irene swept through the area dumping nearly a foot of rain. The flooding forced a mandatory evacuation, but some residents chose to stay.

John Millo, the city's director of emergency management, said "water levels are high enough for concern. There was substantial flooding in a portion of The Maples during the tropical storm. We're keeping an eye on things and we are in contact with the operators of the dam," he said early Tuesday evening. "We are also watching the progress of the rain."

He said officials aren't sure if flooding will happen. "Right now we are in a holding pattern," he said.

The weather service has also posted a flood watch for southern Connecticut including northern Fairfield County. The combination of a stalled -out front to the south being overrun with tropical moisture will allow for moderate to heavy rain to continue into Wednesday. An additional 3 inches of rain is possible. That could cause more problems with falling trees and their weakened root systems since the ground is already saturated.

According to WTNH meteorologist Steve MacLaughlin, the biggest flooding threat continues to be along the same Connecticut rivers that were affected by Irene.

He said Hurricane Katia is still forecast to stay off shore and not make landfall on the East Coast. MacLaughlin said the surf will be high and the western track would bring some outer band of clouds and even rain to the area on Friday, although more of an eastern track would bring just a few clouds. Once Kaita moves out to sea, it will allow for another round of showers on Saturday to push through with a cold front that should bring quiet weather for Sunday.

Connecticut farmers eligible for disaster aid
Ken Dixon, Staff Writer
Published 06:20 p.m., Sunday, October 9, 2011

HARTFORD -- Connecticut farms will be eligible for federal loans and other financial assistance as a result of a disaster designation in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack has designated seven of the state's eight counties primary disaster areas. The eighth, Tolland County, was designated a contiguous disaster county.

Farmers in all eight counties can apply for emergency loans and supplemental assistance through state offices of the USDA Farm Service Agency.

But Terry Jones, of Shelton, and Irv Silverman, of Easton, said they might not bother applying for the aid.

"We were fortunate," said Jones, proprietor of the Shelton-based Jones Family Farms and Winery, where pumpkins are available for public picking. "Some of our pumpkins are more damaged than others, but we covered our losses pretty well."

Jones said several grape arbors blew over and a couple of 200-year-old oak trees fell on some Christmas trees, but overall the farm was spared extensive damage.

"One thing about the storm was we had lots of warning," Jones said. "Although we had some losses, it wasn't catastrophic. There was much more damage along the Connecticut River."

Silverman, who runs a 30-acre orchard and store on Sport Hill Road in Easton, said about half of the 75 apple trees toppled by high winds will be propped up and salvaged.

"I think we'll be good," said Silverman, who has been growing apple crops for 40 years. "I don't think we lost much more than $5,000 worth. We lost some apples from droppage, due to the wind."

He said that windfalls stay on the ground in the orchard because they are no longer allowed to be sold for eating or even crushed into cider.

"Most varieties were OK because they weren't that mature and they stayed on the trees," Silverman said, adding that he would ask the Farm Service if he is eligible for aid.

"Many of our farms were hit hard by Irene and then suffered from the subsequent flooding," Malloy said in a statement. "These funds will help mitigate some of the damage sustained by those in Connecticut's critical agricultural sector."

Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner Stephen Reviczky said he appreciates the federal support. "Connecticut has a vibrant and active agriculture sector, and the family farm is still a major part of our landscape today," Reviczky said. "It is critical that the state and federal governments work together to support the recovery efforts for our farms and farm operators."

Farmers may apply immediately for emergency loans. They must submit their applications within eight months. The Farm Service will judge each loan request separately on the basis of losses and repayment ability.

FSA has offices in Torrington and Wallingford that serve the western half of the state, plus the state office in Tolland.

FEMA Promises To Help CT Post-Irene
by Christine Stuart | Sep 5, 2011 4:16pm

With power restored to all but an estimated 2,325 Connecticut residents, federal and state officials promised to begin the hard work of cleaning up after Tropical Storm Irene.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy toured East Haven Monday morning where 20 homes were destroyed before returning to Hartford for a meeting at the Emergency Operations Center with the rest of the Congressional delegation and other state officials, including the chief executive officers of the two utility companies.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have fanned out across the state to help it assess damages, including damage to individual homes. State officials said about 1,400 homeowners and businesses have reported damages to the state by calling 2-1-1. Those calls and damage reports helped the state meet the threshold for individualized assistance from FEMA.

“Individual assessments are now continuing. These assessments are designed to give the governor a better picture of damages and determine if the request for further federal support is needed,” Napolitano said.

She urged homeowners and businesses to register their damages at or call 1-800-621-FEMA.

“We will continue to lean forward here in Connecticut. We are not leaving,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano hesitated to put a number on the damages, which are still being added up, but she did say in some areas damages were estimated at $15 million—in excess of the threshold to qualify for assistance.

But not everyone will qualify for FEMA assistance.  Residents who may have owned seasonal or vacation homes in shoreline areas are not eligible for federal assistance, Napolitano explained.  She said second homes do not qualify for federal assistance, but that’s why they ask people to contact them so an assessment of an individual situation can be made. She said FEMA also does not cover losses where there’s insurance.

“When we do a damage assessment, we’re not only looking for homes that have been damaged, but were they uninsured losses that are there,” Napolitano said. “We don’t pay the entire replacement value of the home. FEMA pays enough to get started, but it is not there to be a substitute for an insurance policy.”

Malloy said about 80 percent of the insurance companies writing homeowners insurance in Connecticut have agreed to waive their hurricane deductibles.  And Malloy promised that a review of the response to the storm, including the restoration of electricity by the state’s two major utilities will be reviewed.

“Once everyone’s power is back on I’ll be announcing a plan for a comprehensive review of the performance and the criteria involved in all of our operations, including the utilities, covered by this storm,” Malloy said.

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty said that review will also include the performance of phone and cable companies. He said later this week they will sit down and figure out how to go about collecting data for the report.

Connecticut utilities' response to Irene called 'at par' or better
Mark Pazniokas, CT MIRROR
August 31, 2011

A top federal energy official said Wednesday that Connecticut's two major electric companies are on pace to restore power after Tropical Storm Irene more quickly than is typical after disasters of similar scope.

"It may not be any consolation to those currently without power," said William Bryan, the official who oversees infrastructure security and energy restoration for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Based on the feedback Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and utility officials are getting, that undoubtedly is an understatement.

"Obviously the issue in Connecticut right now is power, power, power. It is on everybody's mind who is without it, and everyone who has it is grateful to have it," Malloy said.

For the second consecutive day, Malloy was joined at his afternoon briefing for the media by the top executives of the state's two major electric companies, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating. With more crews still coming into the state, the last customers should see power restored next Wednesday. The extent of the power outages were double those caused by Hurricane Gloria in 1985, Malloy said.  As of 4 p.m., 48,000 UI customers still were out, down from a peak of 158,000. By the weekend, the number is expected to be fewer than 10,000, said James P. Torgerson, the president of UI.

The much larger CL&P had about 290,000 customers in the dark, with the total expected to be 200,000 by Thursday morning, said Jeffrey D. Butler, the president of CL&P. Peak outages at one time were nearly 700,000 for the utility, although more than 800,000 were out at various times.

"We continue to make steady progress," Butler said.

The initial estimate of Irene's cost to CL&P is $75 million, he said.  Both executives defended the pace of restoration, but they acknowledged a need to better inform the public about what to expect in the days ahead. Uncertainty, they said, adds to customer frustration.  Butler said restoration estimates now were online for 46 of the 149 communities served by CL&P.  The goal, he said, was to have a schedule available for every community some time Thursday. Under the current schedule, the Norwalk and Newtown areas will be last, regaining power on Sept. 6 and 7.

"Usually an outage, you have a storm, it is an inconvenience for customers," Torgerson said. "This has gone to where it is a hardship for many customers. We understand loss of electricity is a big problem."

Irene hit the eastern seaboard as every state is devising a federally funded energy assurance plan, an analysis of the risk to the power grid.  One result could be federal standards for things such as tree-trimming near power lines.  State agencies and the utilities also will complete an after-action report to study the response to Irene and recommend changes, but Malloy said the focus will remain on restoring power.

"I think there's going to be plenty of time to look at response on a whole lot of different levels, and I think that needs to be done on a regional basis," Malloy said. "There is plenty of time to do that."

Malloy toured heavily forested eastern Connecticut on Wednesday, where the winds were strongest, the percentage of outages were the highest, and population densities are the lowest.  All three factors will contribute to the last of the restorations to occur there.  Malloy said state officials warned before the storm that many residents would be without power for a week or longer.

"That's what we said from day one, from hour one," Malloy said. "That's what we said."

Bryan, the federal energy official, said power usually is restored to 60 percent to 70 percent of customers in three to six days after a storm of this magnitude.

"That's the national average," Bryan said. "I would argue that you guys are actually at par or above par in that case right now, which speaks very well for your utility companies. The rest of the folks normally get restored within 10 days to two weeks."

Bryan warned that one recommendation to make the state less vulnerable to such widespread outages could be aggressive tree-trimming, which can spark nearly as many complaints as blackouts.

"In some areas, that's a hard pill to swallow," said Bryan, who flew over Connecticut for the first time this week. "I was amazed at how much forestry you have here."

Hurricane Lost Steam as Experts Misjudged Structure and Next Move
August 28, 2011

It began as something far off and dangerous — a monster storm, a Category 3 hurricane that packed winds of 115 miles an hour as it buzz-sawed through the Caribbean last week, causing more than a billion dollars of destruction in the Bahamas alone.

But when Hurricane Irene finally chugged into the New York area on Sunday, it was like an overweight jogger just holding on at the end of a run. Its winds had diminished to barely hurricane strength, and the threat from its storm surge, which officials had once worried might turn Manhattan into Atlantis, was epitomized by television news reports showing small waves lapping over reporters’ feet.

All hurricanes evolve, and most weaken, as they track northward, their size and strength affected by water, wind and terrain. And all hurricanes eventually die — a relatively quick downgrade to a tropical storm in the case of those, like Irene, that travel inland, a more lingering demise for those that trail out to the colder waters of the higher latitudes.

But Irene’s fall — from potential storm of the century to an also-ran in hurricane lore — was greater than most.

Meteorologists were quick to point out that the hurricane was, as forecast, a huge and severe storm, responsible for at least 16 deaths and damaging property from Florida to New England. Given its potential, they said, evacuations and transit shutdowns were well warranted. And they noted that although it was weakened when it hit New York, it was still a Category 1 storm, as predicted several days before, and was still causing extensive flooding even as a tropical storm.

But hurricane forecasters acknowledged that they did not quite call the storm right.

“We were expecting a stronger storm to come into North Carolina,” said James Franklin, chief of the hurricane specialist unit at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “We had every reason to believe it would strengthen after the Bahamas.”

He added, “What we got wrong was the structure of the storm.”

Forecasters had expected that a spinning band of clouds near its center, called the inner eyewall, would collapse and be replaced by an outer band that would then slowly contract. Such “eyewall replacement cycles” have been known to cause hurricanes to strengthen.

While its eyewall did collapse, Irene never completed the cycle, Mr. Franklin said. “There were a lot of rain bands competing for the same energy,” he said. “So when the eyewall collapsed, there were winds over a large area.”

That led the storm to be much larger, but with the winds spread over a larger area, they were less intense. What hurricane specialists had forecast to be a Category 2 or possibly Category 3 storm when it hit eastern North Carolina early Saturday, with maximum sustained winds of 110 m.p.h. or higher, roared across the Outer Banks as a Category 1, with winds that were more than 10 percent slower.

After North Carolina, the storm weakened some more. But forecasters had always expected that, said Dave Radell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton, N.Y. By traveling for a time across part of North Carolina, the hurricane was deprived of the heat and moisture of the ocean that it needed to thrive. Once it headed out over water again, east of Delaware and Maryland, it encountered slightly colder sea surface temperatures, which tend to weaken a storm as well. Finally, its energy was sapped when it encountered winds from an unrelated weather system that originated over the Great Lakes.

“Any combination of those factors will prevent a storm from intensifying,” Mr. Radell said.

“We also had a little drier air get wrapped into the system,” he said, which helps explain why most of the rain that fell in the New York area was contained in the front portion of the storm. There was little precipitation once Irene’s center passed.

The effect of unrelated winds on a hurricane, called wind shear, can be enormous, said Adam H. Sobel, an atmospheric scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University. “When the wind is different in either speed or direction at different heights, hurricanes don’t like that,” he said.

The differential winds can remove moisture from a storm, or distort its shape, which affects its ability to gain energy. Mr. Sobel said that Irene “seemed to come naturally into an area of shear.”

Mr. Franklin said that the hurricane center had done better at forecasting the movement of the storm, the predicted track barely budging in the past few days. But it was not surprising that the strength forecasts were off — the accuracy of such forecasts has hardly improved over the past several decades.

US forecasters see busy hurricane season
Associated Press
Article published Aug 4, 2011

Miami (AP) — Exceptionally high ocean temperatures and atmospheric conditions that support hurricane development will keep the Atlantic and Caribbean on track for an above-average storm season, U.S. forecasters said Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration slightly upgraded its May outlook, calling for 14 to 19 named tropical storms, up from a range of 14 to 18.

That includes the five tropical storms that have formed since the six-month hurricane season started June 1. It ends Nov. 30 and the peak period for hurricanes runs from August through October.

"We expect considerable activity," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in Washington.

"There is absolutely no reason that people should be complacent," Bell said. "Now is the time people really need to make sure they have their hurricane preparedness plans in place."

Tropical storms get named when their top winds reach 39 mph or higher. NOAA now expects seven to 10 named storms to strengthen into hurricanes with top winds of 74 mph or higher, and three to five of those hurricanes could become major storms with winds blowing 111 mph or more...full story here.

The U.S. 2010 Hurricane Season:  2010 SEASON...OIL SLICK IMPACT LOOMS.

Hurricane Tomas floods quake-shattered Haiti town
By JACOB KUSHNER, Associated Press
5 November 2010

LEOGANE, Haiti – Hurricane Tomas flooded the earthquake-shattered remains of a Haitian town on Friday, forcing families who had already lost their homes in one disaster to flee another. In the country's capital, quake refugees resisted calls to abandon flimsy tarp and tent camps.

Driving winds and storm surge battered Leogane, a seaside town west of Port-au-Prince that was near the epicenter of the Jan. 12 earthquake and was 90 percent destroyed. Dozens of families in one earthquake-refuge camp carried their belongings through thigh-high water to a taxi post on high ground, waiting out the rest of the storm under blankets and a sign that read "Welcome to Leogane."

"We got flooded out and we're just waiting for the storm to pass. There's nothing we can do," said Johnny Joseph, a 20-year-old resident.

The growing hurricane with 85 mph (140 kph) winds, was battering the western tip of Haiti's southern peninsula and the cities of Jeremie and Les Cayes.

At least three people died trying to cross swollen rivers, Haiti civil protection officials said. The hurricane had earlier killed at least 14 people in the eastern Caribbean.

The center of the storm was about 140 miles (230 kilometers) northwest of Port-au-Prince, draping charcoal clouds over the city. Steady rain turned the streets of the capital into flowing canals that carried garbage through the city. Farther north in Gonaives, a coastal city twice inundated by recent tropical storms, police evacuated more than 200 inmates from one prison to another.

Aid workers are concerned the storm will worsen Haiti's cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 440 people and hospitalized more than 6,700 others.

In Leogane, an earthquake camp suddenly became an island as floodwater surged around it, stranding hundreds of people in their tents.

Closer to the shore, water poured into the Leogane home of Abdul Khafid, swirling around the furniture. His family grabbed its most important items — birth certificates, a radio and a computer — and headed to their mosque to spend the night.

Haiti's civil protection department had urged people living in camps for the 1.3 million Haitians made homeless by the Jan. 12 earthquake to go to the homes of friends and family.

But many ignored the advice, fearing their few possessions might be stolen or they might even be denied permission to return when the storm is over.

Most of Haiti's post-quake homeless live under donated plastic tarps on open fields. Much is private land, where they have been constantly fighting eviction. A September report from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said 29 percent of 1,268 camps studied had been closed forcibly, meaning the often violent relocation of tens of thousands of people.

U.S. Marines were standing by on the USS Iwo Jima off the coast of Haiti, preparing to help take relief supplies if needed.

Late Thursday, Tomas passed to the east of Jamaica, where schools remained closed and public transportation was stalled on Friday as the island struggled with widespread flooding from a previous storm.

Patrice Edmond, a maid who caught a ride into Kingston, said buses were not operating.

"I barely got a drive to come over, but I'm a determined person," she said.

Seventy-five miles (120 kilometers) northwest of the storm's eye at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in southeastern Cuba, the military suspended flights, canceled school and closed the harbor to recreational craft.

Tomas was moving to the north-northeast at about 12 mph (19 kph) and tropical-storm-force winds extended as far as 140 miles (220 kilometers) from the center, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Forecasters warned of a dangerous storm surge that would generate "large and destructive waves" and raise water levels up to 3 feet (nearly 1 meter) above normal tide levels. It also predicted rainfall of 5 to 10 inches (12 to 25 centimeters) for much of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola.

Port-au-Prince's airport was expected to be closed through Friday, American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Sanderson said.

Post-earthquake reconstruction has barely begun and even the building of transitional shelters — sturdier than makeshift tents, but not solid houses — has been slow. Large installments of long-term funds, including a promised $1.15 billion from the United States, have not arrived. The State Department now says it still has to prove the money won't be stolen or misused.

As rebuilding lags, the United Nations and aid groups have been giving people reasons to stay in camps, providing aid and essential services such as medicine. That continued Thursday as residents reluctant to leave were given reinforcing tarps and other materials.

"We have always said that the best way to protect people in camps is to make camps as resistant as possible to any weather," said Imogen Wall, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "(Evacuation) doesn't make sense ... on a practical level, on a large scale."

Residents of the nearly 8,000-person government relocation camp at Corail-Cesselesse threw bottles at aid workers trying to get them to leave their ShelterBox tents for schools, churches and an abandoned prison nearby.

"If we go away, other people are going to move in our place! We want to stay here because we don't have another place to go," said 29-year-old Roland Jean.

Camp officials finally convinced several hundred people to leave Thursday afternoon on trucks provided by U.N. peacekeepers. An AP reporter found that while the school, church and abandoned hospital chosen as shelters for them were large and undamaged, they had no water or usable toilets.

As the hurricane neared Cuba's eastern tip, the country's crack civil defense forces evacuated 800 people from Baracoa, a city that often floods during inclement weather.

Meanwhile, a cold front hammered the western part of the island with heavy rains and a storm surge that flooded some low-lying parts of the capital, Havana, and closed the seaside Malecon thoroughfare.

In the Dominican Republic, to the east of Haiti, floods damaged at least 1,700 homes and forced the evacuation of more than 8,000 people, emergency operations director Juan Manuel Mendez said.

Tomas killed at least 14 people when it slammed the eastern Caribbean country of St. Lucia as a hurricane Saturday. It will cost roughly $500 million to repair flattened banana fields, destroyed houses, broken bridges and eroded beaches on the island, according to Prime Minister Stephenson King.

A hurricane warning was issued for the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, on the storm's path once it emerges from the strait between Haiti and Cuba.

In Little Inagua Island, the owners of the island's only grocery store brought in extra supplies this week to ensure no one would be short of food or plywood.

"It was a mad rush," said Father Glover, 27, a priest at St. Philips Anglican Church in Matthew Town, the island's only settlement. "A lot of people have been battering down the hatches and securing their homes."

The airport in Turks and Caicos closed on Friday as tourists walked outside and observed the gathering storm clouds.

"It's a shame that we can't enjoy the stuff that we came here to do, but we are still going to stay," said Shelly Schulz, 37, of New York state, who arrived four days ago with her husband and three children.

Hurricane Paula forms, heads to Yucatan Peninsula
By FREDDY CUEVAS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Oct 12, 10:57 am ET

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Hurricane Paula smashed homes and forced schools to close in Honduras on Tuesday as it headed toward Mexico's resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula.  Paula formed Monday off the coast of Honduras and quickly intensified into a hurricane early Tuesday, said the National Hurricane Center in Miami.  Heavy rains and high winds destroyed 19 homes in northeastern Honduras, said Lisandro Rosales, head of Honduras' emergency agency. Officials closed schools along the country's Atlantic coast and some airports were reported closed.

Tuesday morning, it had winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and was centered about 155 miles (245 kilometers) south-southeast of the resort island of Cozumel in Mexico.

Paula was moving toward the northwest at nearly 10 mph (17 kph), bringing it near the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Tuesday night. The forecast track would have the storm a little offshore of Cancun, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres near the tip of the Peninsula late Wednesday night.  The Hurricane Center said the storm was likely to gain force, though it was not expected to become a major hurricane.

Paula was expected to dump from 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) of Honduras, northern Belize, eastern portions of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and parts of western and central Cuba.  The government of Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the country's Caribbean coast from Punta Gruesa north to Cabo Catoche, including the island of Cozumel. Warnings are issued when hurricane conditions are almost certain to occur.

Forecasters warned of possible flooding and landslides and suggested residents avoid fishing trips or water sports.

Forecasters said the storm would produce heavy rains that could cause flash floods and mudslides, especially in the mountains of Nicaragua and Honduras. It said isolated, mountainous areas in Honduras could get as many as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain.  Coastal flooding from heavy waves was also expected along the eastern coast of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula.

Tropical Storm Nicole forms, may skirt Florida
By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer
29 September 2010

HAVANA – Newly formed Tropical Storm Nicole soaked central and eastern Cuba on Wednesday, washing out some roads but sparing the crumbling buildings of the capital as the system pushed northeast toward the Bahamas. At least one death was recorded due to flooding in Jamaica.

The storm had sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and it was not expected to grow much further as it passes over the ocean east of Florida on a track that could carry it over parts of the Bahamas by evening, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

It said the sprawling system could still cause heavy rains and spawn tornadoes in Florida, however.

By late Wednesday morning, the storm was centered about 120 miles (195 kilometers) east-southeast of Havana and 260 miles (420 kilometers) southwest of Nassau in the Bahamas. It was advancing toward the northeast at 9 mph (15 kph)

Cuba's chief meteorologist, Jose Rubiera, said the storm rolled across a swath of the west-central island overnight and its center was moving north of the island. Bands behind its core were continuing to bring heavy rains, however.

Rubiera said wind associated with the storm was not a threat, but that provinces from Matanzas east all the way to Guantanamo would continue to face downpours throughout the day.

"The important factor remains the rain," Rubiera said.

State-controlled television showed images of rain flooding roads and highways, especially around the eastern city of Santiago, but there were no reports of damage. Far to the west in Havana, it wasn't even raining and there was no flooding.

Communist Cuba has a well-trained civil defense force praised for its fast response to natural disasters, one that often uses mandatory evacuations to move people to safety in many parts of the island. Authorities often order thousands of evacuations ahead of even moderate storms — but there were no such orders reported for the depression.

Jamaica's Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management on Wednesday reported collapsed bridges, flooded roads and mudslides and it said that a boy was washed away before dawn when a house next to a paved gully collapsed in St. Andrew parish. Emergency workers were trying to recover his body from rust-colored waters.

Across the Caribbean country, several bridges collapsed overnight under the force of the flooded rivers and creeks. Schools and some businesses were closed as emergency officials braced for more rain through Friday.

In the capital of Kingston, underpasses flooded as the torrents overwhelmed storm water drains. Some motorists were stuck when their cars stalled in knee-deep waters. Most traffic lights were out and roads were littered with debris.

Police in Westmoreland parish's capital of Savanna-la-Mar said the community was hit by a waterspout overnight that ripped the roofs off a couple of buildings and sent four people to a local hospital with abrasions.

The depression was also felt Tuesday south of Cuba in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, where meteorologists said more than four inches (10 centimeters) of rain fell in just 12 hours, causing flooding. Public schools closed and government workers from low-lying areas were allowed to leave early.

Chief Grand Cayman Meteorologist John Tibbetts said 5- to 7-foot (1.5- to 2-meter) waves were forecast through Wednesday night and warned boaters to remain ashore.

Hurricane Igor takes aim at Bermuda
18 September 2010

HAMILTON (Reuters) – Hurricane Igor churned across the Atlantic Ocean toward Bermuda on Saturday packing powerful winds and heavy rains as island residents stocked up on supplies and worked to secure their homes.

The Category 2 storm was located about 440 miles south of the tiny British overseas territory at 11 a.m.. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Igor was on a path to reach Bermuda late on Sunday, but warned tropical storm weather was expected later Saturday.

"Igor is expected to remain a dangerous hurricane as it approaches Bermuda," the Miami-based hurricane center said.  A hurricane warning was in effect for Bermuda, a wealthy hub for the global insurance industry and one of the world's most isolated yet densely populated islands.  Most stores and restaurants in the capital of Hamilton were boarded up and many residents stocked up on gas, batteries, food and candles.

"The shutters are up, I've put tape across the windows and I've got a lot of buckets ready," said Eddie DeSilva, a 64-year-old cleaner.

Bermuda's buildings are some of the best-constructed in the world, weather forecasters and analysts say, which could help mitigate any potential storm damage.  Igor had sustained winds of 110 mph, with hurricane-force winds extending out for 105 miles, the hurricane center said.

Julia a Cat 4 hurricane; TS Karl headed to Mexico  (Karl a hurricane on Friday, kills two in landslide)
By GABRIEL ALCOCER, Associated Press Writer
15 September 2010 (Wednesday)

CANCUN, Mexico – A strengthening Tropical Storm Karl neared the Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday, bearing down on the resort beaches of the Mayan Riviera.

Meanwhile far from land, Hurricane Julia rapidly intensified, becoming a powerful Category 4 storm early Wednesday.  Karl had maximum sustained winds of about 65 mph (100 kph) and was located about 105 miles (170 kilometers) east of Chetumal, Mexico, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.  Mexico's government issued a tropical storm warning for the peninsula from Chetumal northward to Cabo Catoche. Parts of Belize are under a tropical storm watch.

The storm was expected to smack into land near Tulum, a beach town of eco-resorts and cliffside Mayan ruins, and then quickly weaken into a tropical depression before heading back out over the Gulf of Mexico, where it could turn into a hurricane by the end of the week.  Authorities on the Yucatan warned the population of heavy rains but said they saw no need yet for evacuations.

"The police in all communities are just monitoring. There are no instructions to evacuate or activate shelters," said Didier Vasquez, deputy state public safety secretary.

The storm threw doubt over the area's celebration of Mexico's bicentennial anniversary of independence from Spain, although there was no immediate decision to cancel festivities.  Felipe Reyes, a receptionist at Las Ranitas hotel in Tulum, said guests were warned to prepare for heavy rains and winds overnight, but none had chosen to leave.

"For now everything is calm. The weather is pretty nice," Reyes said.

Elsewhere, Hurricane Julia strengthened in the open Atlantic, with its maximum sustained winds increasing to near 135 mph (215 kph). Also far from land over the Atlantic, Hurricane Igor's top winds weakened slightly to 145 mph (230 kph).

Hurricanes Igor, Julia spin in Atlantic

14 September 2010

MIAMI (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Julia grew in the far eastern Atlantic into the fifth hurricane of the storm season, while Hurricane Igor weakened slightly but remained a dangerous Category 4 storm, forecasters said on Tuesday.  Neither hurricane posed an immediate threat to land or energy interests, but Igor could threaten Bermuda by the weekend.

Julia reached hurricane status and then continued to strengthen, with top sustained winds of 85 miles per hour. It was about 355 miles west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.  Julia was moving west-northwest as a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, forecasters said. Its projected path would keep it out to sea.  Julia could strengthen slowly over the next two days, forecasters said. But as it gets closer to the more powerful Igor, strong upper-level winds flowing out from Igor could shear off and weaken Julia.

Farther west in the Atlantic, Hurricane Igor weakened slightly but still packed a punch, the center said.  Igor was about 710 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds at 135 mph, the center said.  Igor had been moving west on Monday but curved to the west-northwest on Tuesday. It was expected to curl around to the north in three or four days, and eventually turn east. Its projected path would keep it away from the North American coast but it was too soon to rule out a hit.

"Five- to 10-day forecasts are prone to large errors, and it is too early to be highly confident that Igor will miss hitting the U.S. or Canadian coasts," veteran forecaster Jeff Masters said on his Weather Underground blog.

Igor's strength could fluctuate in the next couple of days but it was expected to remain a dangerous hurricane through Thursday, the hurricane center forecasters said.  Igor was expected to weaken before nearing the British territory of Bermuda on Saturday.  Ocean swells generated by Igor will begin affecting the Leeward Islands on Tuesday and will reach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands late on Tuesday and Wednesday, causing life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, the hurricane center said.

Computer models kept both storms in the Atlantic and far away from the Gulf of Mexico, where U.S. oil and gas operations are clustered.

Most forecasters predicted the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season would be extremely active. The season runs from June through November and has already brought 10 tropical storms, with five growing into hurricanes. Three of those -- Danielle, Earl and Igor -- have reached Category 4 strength.

"We already had a full season's worth of activity, with about 45 percent of the season still to come," Masters said.

Hermine continues strengthening as it turns to northwest
Posted: Sep 06, 2010 4:24 AM EDT
Updated: Sep 06, 2010 11:04 AM EDT MIAMI, FL (AP) -

Forecasters said Tropical Storm Hermine strengthened even more in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico as it took a slight turn to the northwest Monday morning.

The system was located at 23.4 north and 95.8 west, or about 205 miles south-southeast of Brownsville, TX, at 10 a.m.  Maximum sustained winds were 50 mph and it was moving north-northwest at 13 mph.

Hurricane watches have been issued which extend from Rio San Fernando, Mexico northward to Baffin Bay, TX.  Hermine is expected to continue moving toward the north-northwest for the next day or two.

Meteorologists said the center of circulation is predicted to be near the coast of northeastern Mexico or extreme southern Texas late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.  They added some more strengthening is forecast before Hermine makes landfall and the storm could possibly reach Category 1 hurricane classification.  It formed earlier in the day, becoming the eighth tropical storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season.

Copyright 2010 WAFB. All rights reserved.

Earl fizzles
Island evacuations start as Earl nears East Coast
By MIKE BAKER, Associated Press Writer Mike Baker, Associated Press Writer 14 mins ago

NAGS HEAD, N.C. – Hurricane Earl steamed toward the Eastern Seaboard on Wednesday as communities from North Carolina to New England kept a close eye on the forecast, worried that even a slight shift in the storm's predicted offshore track could put millions of people in the most densely populated part of the country in harm's way.

Vacationers along North Carolina's dangerously exposed Outer Banks took advantage of the typical picture-perfect day just before a hurricane arrives to pack their cars and flee inland, cutting short their summer just before Labor Day weekend.

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland declared a state of emergency, sea turtle nests on one beach were scooped up and moved to safety, and the crew of the Navy's USS Cole rushed to get home to Norfolk, Va., on Wednesday ahead of the bad weather. The destroyer was supposed to return later this week from a seven-month assignment fighting piracy off Somalia.

Farther up the East Coast, emergency officials urged people to have disaster plans and supplies ready and weighed whether to order evacuations as they watched the latest maps from the National Hurricane Center — namely, the "cone of uncertainty" showing the broad path the storm could take.

Earl was expected to reach the North Carolina coast late Thursday and wheel to the northeast, staying offshore while making its way up the Eastern Seaboard. But forecasters said it could move in closer, perhaps coming ashore in North Carolina, crossing New York's Long Island and passing over the Boston metropolitan area and Cape Cod.

That could make the difference between modestly wet and blustery weather on the one hand, and dangerous storm surge, heavy rain and hurricane-force winds on the other.

"Everyone is poised and ready to pull the trigger if Earl turns west, but our hope is that this thing goes out to sea and we're all golfing this weekend," said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Earl was a powerful Category 4 hurricane centered more than 680 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., with winds of 135 mph.

The only evacuations ordered were on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, part of the Outer Banks. Just a light breeze was stirring and there wasn't a cloud in the sky along the Outer Banks — a ribbon of barrier islands a dozen miles or more off the mainland, connected to the rest of the world by a couple of bridges and a ferry. Along the lone highway, hundreds of cars backed up at one of the bridges.

Brittany Grippaldi and her family took advantage of the good weather to pack up their Ford Explorer in Hatteras and head home to New Jersey.

"It's sad because reality hasn't really set in because it is so beautiful out. It's like, `Oh, I don't want to leave this,' but it's like the calm before the storm," said Grippaldi, who hoped to beat the traffic.

Chuck Costas also wasn't taking any chances, interrupting his two-week vacation to move inland from the cottage he rented on Nags Head on the Outer Banks. Large waves already crashing ashore uncomfortably close to the home.

"It is what it is," he said. "We have no control over it. If we lose a couple days, it's not a huge loss."

Hurricane warnings were posted for most of the North Carolina coast, with a hurricane watch extending to Delaware and part of Massachusetts.

In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell activated the National Guard and sent 200 troops to the Hampton Roads area on Chesapeake Bay. The area was not expected to get the brunt of Earl, but many remember the surprise fury of Hurricane Isabel, which killed 33 people and caused $1.6 billion in damage in September 2003.

"I'd rather be safe and get our troops and state police in place by Thursday night," the governor said.

Emergency officials on Cape Cod braced for their first major storm since Hurricane Bob brought winds of up to 100 mph to coastal New England in August 1991. Marinas encouraged people to take their boats out of the water now instead of waiting for Labor Day.

Also on Wednesday, the seventh tropical storm of the season formed far out in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Gaston had sustained winds of 40 mph and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane this weekend as it moves toward the Leeward Islands.

Tropical Storm Fiona remained north of the Caribbean with winds of 60 mph and is expected to move toward Bermuda over the next several days.

State Prepares For Hurricane Earl
12:57 PM EDT, August 31, 2010

Hurricane Earl is "taking a track to our east," putting Connecticut on the western side of the storm, Joe Furey, FoxCT meteorologist, said early Tuesday afternoon.

That's a good thing, he said.  Connecticut still may get gusty wind and rain Friday, he said, but "on the western fringe, we're spared significant hit from the storm."

"As long as it stays to our east, we're in good shape," Furey said. He can't say the same for people who expect to be on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, however.

Of course, it's only Tuesday, and things may change, he warned.

"Any deviation to the track could make a difference," Furey said.

"We're on the better side of the storm — the western side," Furey said. "But how close we are will determine how our weather is Friday afternoon and evening.

"It should a fast-moving storm once it gets up this way," Furey said. "It should be done by midnight Friday."

Earl, which was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane on Monday, formed in the Caribbean over the weekend. Local meteorologists and officials tracking the storm from the National Hurricane Center in Miami predict that Earl will gather speed and strength as it moves toward the coastal United States.

"Our biggest fear is a storm that hits New York City and Long Island and then pulls moisture out of Long Island Sound while putting us in the northeast quadrant of the storm, which is usually the worst area of such weather events," Furey said Monday. "We're not going to know for sure about this one until later in the week."

But a storm diverted toward Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard could easily strand the thousands of Connecticut residents vacationing there during the week before Labor Day weekend.

A major hurricane hasn't hit coastal New England since 1985, when Hurricane Gloria slammed Long Island and then New England, causing eight deaths and an estimated $900 million in property damage. But meteorologists consider it a statistical fluke that Connecticut has not been hit by a major hurricane since then. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, highlighting the lack of preparedness in many American cities, emergency planners have focused on improving the I-95 corridor's preparation for a storm.

But these planners also say that recent building trends and lifestyle changes have transformed the East Coast into a veritable obstacle course for residents during a storm. The construction of large coastal condominium complexes and backyards converted into barbecue cooking areas and gazebo lounges have created the huge potential for debris to be blown across major roads just as residents are attempting to evacuate before a storm.

Scott DeVico, a spokesman for the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said that Connecticut has taken many steps since Katrina to establish a sequenced process for dealing with a storm as it develops off the coast. The state Emergency Operations Center at the Hartford Armory maintains detailed maps of Connecticut's shoreline towns, showing which residential areas and roads would be covered by the storm surges of a hurricane. The state holds hurricane preparedness conferences every year for emergency management officials from all 169 Connecticut towns. Most towns in the state also have universal-band radios that allow police and emergency management directors to communicate with other towns during a storm.

DeVico said that if, by Thursday, weather forecasts show that Hurricane Earl is headed for Connecticut, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will position critical supplies like water, medical equipment and tarps at strategic locations throughout the state.

With fresh memories of destructive spring floods, the coastal town of Stonington is making preparations for Hurricane Earl.

First Selectman Ed Haberek said Stonington is in "96-hour preparation mode" and has already begun speaking with public works officials to be pre-emptive. Haberek said he will be part of a conference call with the governor's office tomorrow to discuss strategies for the storm.

Hurricane Danielle becomes Category 4 storm
The Associated Press
Published: 06:38 a.m., Friday, August 27, 201

MIAMI ---- Hurricane Danielle became a Category 4 storm early Friday far out over the Atlantic as it headed in Bermuda's direction and threatened to bring dangerous rip currents to the U.S. East Coast.

Danielle's maximum sustained winds increased to near 135 mph (215 kph) with some additional strengthening possible.

Danielle was located early Friday about 545 miles (875 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and moving north-northwest near 12 mph (19 kph). The hurricane is forecast to pass well east of Bermuda on Saturday night, and then make a turn to the north, missing North America. But large waves and dangerous surf conditions were expected in Bermuda over the next few days, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Swells from Danielle would also begin arriving on the East Coast of the U.S. on Saturday and were likely to cause dangerous rip currents through the weekend.

Also in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Earl was moving west with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph (75 kph). Forecasters said Earl could become by Saturday night.

And in the Pacific, Hurricane Frank had weakened slightly off Mexico's coast. Further weakening was expected over the next couple days as the hurricane moved over cooler waters.

Atlantic storm Danielle to become hurricane
23 August 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Danielle in the central Atlantic Ocean was expected to strengthen into a hurricane in the next 24 hours as it moved west-northwest toward Bermuda, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an early Monday advisory.

Danielle, the fourth named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, was located about 850 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands with winds of about 60 miles per hour.

All of the computer weather models showed the system heading northwest toward Bermuda and not toward Florida or the key oil and gas producing areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Coast: Another Katrina?  How does unknown impact of Gulf oil slick measure up?
Norwalk HOUR
By STACEY PLAISANCE and BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press (Katrina, 2005)

With a historic evacuation of 1.9 million people from the Louisiana coast complete, gun-toting police and National Guardsmen stood watch as rain started to fall on this city's empty streets Sunday night -- and even presidential politics stood still while the nation waited to see if Hurricane Gustav would be another Katrina.

The storm was set to crash ashore midday Monday with frightful force, testing the three years of planning and rebuilding that followed Katrina's devastating blow to the Gulf Coast.

Painfully aware of the failings that led to that horrific suffering and more than 1,600 deaths, this time officials moved beyond merely insisting tourists and residents leave south Louisiana. They threatened arrest, loaded thousands onto buses and warned that anyone who remained behind would not be rescued.

"Looters will go directly to jail. You will not get a pass this time," Mayor Ray Nagin said. "You will not have a temporary stay in the city. You will go directly to the Big House."

Col. Mike Edmondson, state police commander, said he believed that 90 percent of the population had fled the Louisiana coast. The exodus of 1.9 million people is the largest evacuation in state history, and thousands more had left from Mississippi, Alabama and flood-prone southeast Texas.

Late Sunday, Gov. Bobby Jindal issued one last plea to the roughly 100,000 people still left on the coast: "If you've not evacuated, please do so. There are still a few hours left."

Louisiana and Mississippi temporarily changed traffic flow so all highway lanes led away from the coast, and cars were packed bumper-to-bumper. Stores and restaurants shut down, hotels closed and windows were boarded up. Some who planned to stay changed their mind at the last second, not willing to risk the worst.

"I was trying to get situated at home. I was trying to get things so it would be halfway safe," said 46-year-old painter Jerry Williams, who showed up at the city's Union Station to catch one of the last buses out of town. "You're torn. Do you leave it and worry about it, or do you stay and worry about living?"

Forecasters said Gustav was likely to grow stronger as it marched toward the coast with top sustained winds of around 115 mph. At 8 p.m. EDT Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said Gustav was a Category 3 storm centered about 175 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving northwest near 17 mph.

Against all warnings, some gambled and decided to face its wrath. On an otherwise deserted commercial block of downtown Lafayette, about 135 miles west of the city, Tim Schooler removed the awnings from his photography studio. He thought about evacuating Sunday before deciding he was better off riding out the storm at home with his wife, Nona.

"There's really no place to go. All the hotels are booked up to Little Rock and beyond," he said. "We're just hoping for the best."

There were frightening comparisons between Gustav and Katrina, which flooded 80 percent of New Orleans when the storm surge overtook the levees. While Gustav isn't as large as Katrina, which was a massive Category 5 storm at roughly the same place in the Gulf, there was no doubt the storm posed a major threat to a partially rebuilt New Orleans and the flood-prone coasts of Louisiana and southeast Texas. The storm has already killed at least 94 people on its path through the Caribbean.

The storm could bring with it a storm surge of up to 14 feet and rainfall up to 20 inches wherever it hits. By comparison, Hurricane Katrina pushed about 25 feet of surge.

Mindful of the potential for disaster, the Republican Party scaled back its normally jubilant convention -- set to kickoff as Gustav crashed ashore. President Bush said he would skip the convention all together, and Sen. John McCain visited Jackson, Miss., on Sunday as his campaign rewrote the script for the convention to emphasize a commitment to helping people.

Surge models suggest larger areas of southeast Louisiana, including parts of the greater New Orleans area, could be flooded by several feet of water. Gustav appears most likely to overwhelm the levees west of the city that have for decades been underfunded and neglected and are years from an update.

The nation's economic attention was focused on Gustav's effect on refineries and offshore petroleum production rigs. The combination of prolonged production interruptions, such as occurred when Katrina and Rita damaged the Gulf infrastructure, could trigger rising prices.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Chevron Corp. decided not to close its Pascagoula refinery, which processes 330,000 barrels of oil a day.

Billions of dollars were at stake in other wide-ranging economic sectors, including sugar harvesting, the shipping business and tourism. The Mississippi Gaming Commission ordered a dozen casinos to close.

The final train out of town left with fewer than 100 people on board, while the one of the last buses to make the rounds of the city pulled into Union Station empty. By 7 p.m., police were making their final rounds. Every officer in the department was on duty, and 1,200 on street were joined by 1,500 National Guardsmen.

The only sign of life on St. Bernard Avenue -- a four-lane artery through the partially rebuilt Gentilly neighborhood that flooded during Katrina -- was a brown and black rooster meandering along the street.

"When the 911 calls start coming in, we'll know how many people are left in town," said police superintendent Warren Riley.

Even as they pressed to complete the evacuation, officials insisted there would be no repeat of the inept response to Katrina's wrath. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said search and rescue will be the top priority once Gustav passes -- high-water vehicles, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, Coast Guard cutters and a Navy vessel that is essentially a floating emergency room are posted around the strike zone.

West of New Orleans in Houma, he wished passengers well as stragglers boarded buses for Shreveport and Dallas.

"It's going to be hot on some of the buses. It's going to be a long trip," Chertoff said. "So it's not going to be pleasant, but it's a lot better than sitting in the Superdome and it's a lot better than sitting in your house."

Five years ago it was Katrina...

This is where it started...Town Clerk leads the way!  Board of Selectmen get in
to the act, and then the Board of Finance balks...wants to do more...members of both Parties join together to make a significant, long term pledge to assist a "Sister City."  Intergeneratioinal effort, as well!  FLOODING HITS WESTON - FEMA now will accept applications and also...SBA to the rescue!

Making a bad situation worse
Article created: 08/19/2006 04:43:17 AM EDT
Almost a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities, a Connecticut hygiene specialist is questioning whether hospitals understand how to plan or recover from a disaster.

Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, and headed inland, striking communities in Mississippi and Alabama. It caused 1,326 deaths and displaced more than 700,000 people. While it's unlikely Connecticut communities would see the same type of flood damage as New Orleans — where some of the city is below sea level — the Constitution State could be hit by a hurricane, suffer river flooding or terrorist attacks.

Bill Parks, a senior project manager for Stamford-based RTK Environmental Group and a hygienist, spent four months in New Orleans helping to clean up hospitals after the storm. In many cases, he said, the hospitals stored chemicals, dead bodies and medical waste in places that were easily flooded. This spread bacteria and other contaminants throughout the building, making the cleanup more difficult.

Parks also found many New Orleans hospitals stored engineering records and duplicate keys in basements, which also slowed recovery efforts. In one case, crews had to wait four days to get inside to assess one hospital because administrators had to track down the original architect and the company that printed the original plans, Parks said.

Robert Gallo, RTK's director of sales and marketing, said businesses, states and cities need to think about what the problems during cleanup were after Katrina when they make their own disaster and recovery plans. RTK is an environmental remediation consulting firm, helping clean up brownfields, asbestos and other dangers.

Gallo said there has been a lot of attention on planning for when the disaster occurs, but the recovery effort is just as important. Even today, with all this knowledge, Gallo said his firm sees people cleaning up after smaller disasters like fires and creating larger problems by not having a plan to deal with asbestos or other materials.

The two RTK employees also said Katrina is an example of the failure of disaster plans and bureaucracy. For example, during Katrina, Parks said, it was like the federal, state and city officials weren't even speaking the same language, and it was unclear who was      in charge.
Ron Bianchi, corporate senior vice president of St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, agreed.

"It was a disaster in more than one sense. It was a disaster of leadership," Bianchi said, adding he's not sure the same thing wouldn't happen in Connecticut.

"There's a lot of potential confusion," Bianchi said.

A disaster can cross not just geographical boundaries, but also administrative ones, creating potential for power struggles.

But perhaps the scariest thing about a major disaster would be people's expectations of the government.

Bianchi said people may expect the government to swoop in to direct them what to do, but government bureaucracy doesn't move that fast.

"We'll need more initiative on the part of the individual," he said.

Bianchi said St. Vincent's is prepared to evacuate and has developed recovery plans. Other hospitals also have plans and are continuing to refine them, according to the Connecticut Hospital Association.

Leonard Guercia, chief of the operations branch of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said the state is already addressing some of Parks' concerns.

For instance, according to Guercia, Connecticut will have refrigerated trailers to store bodies if it faces a major disaster. Last year, some bodies rotted in the streets of New Orleans for days after the storm passed, creating more health concerns.

The Department of Public Health is also sponsoring a seminar Sept. 21 called "The Role and Responsibility of Local Government & Business Leaders in Pre-Event Planning & Post-Event Planning."

Gallo and Parks said the planning underway is good, but a major problem facing the state and the nation is the general populace doesn't know what the plans are, and aren't participating in drills. That, Parks said, needs to change.

"DEPARTURE CEREMONY" May 20th goes well - Lacombe, Louisiana or bust! 
And it was quite a ceremony, with Channel 12 there, everyone was gracious but didn't take much time away from the task at hand - loading the trucks for their trip to Lacombe.  Good stuff only loaded onto truck.  HAPPENINGS:  a large SUV arrived, loaded to the gills, from a neighboring synagogue, with a bounty of brand new kitchen equipment in their new, unopened, boxes...
Click here for flyer. 

Sister city committee proposes projects
Weston FORUM

Feb 15, 2006

Weston residents, organizations, and businesses who want to make a difference in the lives of people in Southeast Louisiana have an opportunity to do so through 14 projects being suggested by the Weston Select Committee on the Town-to-Town Partnership.

The committee, appointed by the Board of Selectmen, adopted a mission statement to partner with a town similar in size and community to Weston, to facilitate supporting that town’s immediate and short-term needs for recovery, and to build a mutually beneficial long-term relationship and partnership.

Weston has “adopted” a sister city, Lacombe, La., located along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish. The community sustained substantial damage during Hurricane Katrina. It is one of the poorest communities in St. Tammany Parish, with an average family income of about $32,000 a year. An estimated 90% of the elementary school students qualify for free lunches.

Committee members David Muller and Martin Strasmore recently traveled to Lacombe, where they saw first-hand the devastation there. They met with town officials, fire personnel, church leaders, school principals, and directors of the library, the health and human services department, and the recreation department.  The committee held its first public presentation of projects organized to date on Feb. 11 in the parish hall at Norfield Church. Proposed projects focus on both the long-term and short-term needs of the Lacombe community.

Mr. Muller, chairman of the Town-To-Town Partnership Committee, said loss of the property tax base as a result of the hurricane necessitated significant budget cuts in Lacombe and across Louisiana, which led to drastic cutbacks in equipment repairs, replacement, and purchases. There is no money to do the things they need to do to rebuild, he said.

The projects the Weston committee seeks to undertake include:

500 Homes

Five hundred families that had no flood insurance and limited help from FEMA would benefit; 25% of the homes are in the flood zone, and they are looking to rebuild on land above the flood zone. Weston would fund transportation of the items to Lacombe.

Items to be collected include:

•    Construction materials: Sheet rock, flooring, trusses and roofing materials. As funding is received, it will be spent on materials.

•    Furniture and large appliances: Bedroom furniture, beds and bedding for 1,000 or more, dining room tables, washers and dryers, stoves and microwaves are needed within the next two to three months.

•    Clothing and basic needs: Clothing and shoes for all ages, telephones, pots and pans, dishes, cleaning supplies, TVs, and all basic needs for a house.

Lacombe Athletic Equipment

Sports equipment, for ages five to 14, to be collected includes:

•    Football: Footballs, 30 helmets, and shoulder pads. Equipment needed by September.

•    Baseball: 10 youth catchers packages, 15 Babe Ruth certified balls, 30 baseball/softball helmets, 10 baseball catchers mitts, five softball catchers mitts, and white baseball/softball pants. Equipment needed by April.

Project Maintenance

The hurricane caused the loss of the town’s maintenance facility as well as most of the tools and equipment. The project would benefit the entire community. Work could begin immediately and be complete within one to one and a half years. Specific needs include:

•    A 30- by 40-foot metal building

•    Concrete foundation

•    Concrete drive leading to building (60 to 80 feet)

•    Vehicle lift (9,000-pound capability)

•    Tools

Monteleone Junior High School

Supplies Project: Copier paper, file folders, ink pens, overhead markers, copier transparencies, dry erase markers, AAA batteries, HP printer ink. Total estimated cost: $613.

Technology Project: Four Dell OptiPlexGX280, six HP Deskjet 3915, four VCR-DVD players, four AverVision 300i Portable Document Cameras, four Infocus x2 Digital projector 1500. Total estimated cost: $10,108.

Exploring the Art and Dance of Southeastern Louisiana

A local artist is employed to share the knowledge and skills regarding the history and artistic techniques of artists of Southeastern Louisiana. Art supplies for students are needed, as well as materials to display the completed student work in an art show.

The program would also employ a local performer to share the art of Cajun dance with students.

Based on past grants, which are no longer available, estimated cost is approximately $3,000.

Bringing the Art and Dance of Southeastern Louisiana to Weston

Two options: Bringing people and materials from Lacombe’s program to Weston, or sending a video and art team to Lacombe to record and bring back what they see and learn. The value is for the Weston community, though it might help raise money for other Lacombe projects, and it would strengthen ties between Weston and Lacombe.

Bayou Lacombe Middle School

Supplies Project: 10 TI-15 Explorer calculators, printer ink cartridges. Total estimated cost: $712. These are needed as soon as possible.

Reading Database Project: A subscription to Online Accelerated Reader Database, reading software program to motivate students to read. Estimated cost: $219.

Technology Project: Three Dell Intel P4 521, HP Laptop NC6120, three HP Color Laser Jet 3550n, 13 ELMO HV-110XG Visual Presenter,  eight port hubs for ethernet. Total estimated cost: $16,100.

Chahta-Ima Elementary School

Supplies Project: HP print cartridges for 26 computers, 25 bulbs for Dell 2200 MP Projectors. Total estimated cost: $9,000.

Technology Project: Four Dell 2300 MP projectors, four projector screens, seven 27-inch television/DVD/VHS, 10 HP Compaq Sepcs Dc 7600, eight HP Deskjet Printers 5650, four Sony Cybershot DSC-P72 digital cameras, four ELMO HV-5100XG visual presenters. Total estimated cost: $28,195.

For information and the name of the contact person for each project, call Mr. Muller at 226-6588.

Mr. Muller said monetary donations made out to the Town of Weston, with the notation for Town- to-Town Partnership, are tax deductible. However, there is no clear answer as yet on whether donations of furnishings and other goods are deductible.  He said people coordinating collections through schools and other organizations should call the contact person for that project to avoid any conflicts.

There is also an opportunity for hands-on work, Mr. Muller said, explaining they might be able to send teams to Lacombe to help with construction projects.  Mr. Strasmore said the committee also needs the expertise of a Web designer to create a Web site.

In addition to Mr. Muller and Mr. Strasmore, committee members include Rev. Bernard Wilson, Michael Carter, Charlene Chiang-Hillman, Dr. Lynne Pierson, and Dawn Egan. 

Select Committee for Sister City (re:  Hurricane Katrina) formed  by Board of Selectmen - members appointed October 6, 2005.

In Mississippi, The Post-Katrina Recovery Is Stagnant;  After three months little has changed in many devastated towns
Published on 11/26/2005

Pass Christian, Miss.— Three months ago, Katrina all but scoured this old beach town of 8,000 off the face of the Earth. To walk its streets today is to see acres of wreckage almost as untouched as the day the hurricane passed.

No new houses are framed out. No lots cleared. There is just devastation and a lingering stench and a tent city in which hundreds of residents huddle against the first chill of winter and wonder where they'll find the money to rebuild their lives.

Billy McDonald, the white-haired mayor whose house was reduced to a concrete slab by 55-foot-high waves, works out of a trailer. He doesn't expect the word “recovery” to roll off his lips for many months.

“Lots of folks don't have flood insurance; lots of folks don't have jobs; lots of folks don't have hope,” McDonald said. “We're a hurting place.”

This is the other land laid low by Katrina's fury. Like New Orleans to the west, hundreds of square miles of Mississippi coastland look little better than they did in early September, and many people here harbor anger that the federal government has fallen short and that the nation's attention has turned away. At least 200,000 Mississippians remain displaced, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is short at least 13,000 trailers to house them.

Fifty thousand homeowners lack federal flood insurance and cannot rebuild. The casinos, which employed 17,000 people, won't begin to reopen until next year, and the unemployment rate has quadrupled, now topping 23 percent in the coastal counties.

Half a dozen towns, Pass Christian among them, are borrowing millions of dollars to pay bills, and some officials are talking about surrendering charters and becoming wards of the state.

“FEMA continues to be able to mess up a one-car funeral — we don't begin to have enough money for major reconstruction,” said Rep. Gene Taylor (D), who lost his own home in Bay St. Louis. “We're going to have a lot of defaults and bankruptcies.

“The federal response, from highways to housing to trailers, is completely unacceptable.”

Developers and casino companies and local politicians have begun to map out a rebuilding plan, but that stirs anxiety, too. In this poorest state in the nation, where nearly 22 percent of residents live in poverty and 40,000 homes lack adequate plumbing, thousands of Mississippians could find themselves unable to afford to return to the land of their birth.

How about tornado attraction?
Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 13:06 GMT 

Trailer towns' uncertain future 
By Matthew Davis, BBC News in Baker, Louisiana 

Some 70,000 people in Louisiana and Mississippi are now living in trailer parks, three months after Hurricane Katrina forced them to abandon their homes.   The cheap, makeshift abodes are synonymous with poverty in the US.  Yet for many storm victims they are the only option for the next 18 months at least, while the slow process of rebuilding winds on. For some they are a new beginning, a step up from sharing a motel room.

But there are fears for the long-term social consequences of the wave of construction that has seen "trailer towns" springing up all along the Gulf Coast.  The BBC visited one such site in Baker, Louisiana, a small town just north of Baton Rouge and about 90 miles from New Orleans.  Just outside the town limits, some 60 acres of treeless scrubland owned by the Louisiana State Corrections Department has been turned into a 600-trailer park, housing more than 1,600 people.

Casterry Reddick was one of the first people to move to the park after she was evacuated from Pointe a La Hache on the east bank of the Mississippi River.

"It is better than a shelter at least. It's me and my kids. At the river centre I was with 1,000 other people," she said.  The mother-of-two is working as a security guard, patrolling the trailers and is making plans to stay. Her children are in a local school.

"Right now I am working, I am kinda confused, I don't know where to go," she says.

"Once I get paid off [by the Federal Emergency Management Agency] I will decide from there - but I kinda like it out here, not in Baker - but Baton Rouge. Yeah I would buy a house in Baton Rouge."

'Pleasure resort'

Yet some at the park find it hard to escape a sense of being in limbo.

Annie Ford is 97, a New Orleans resident since 1934. She now lives in a trailer with her cousin and her son. She seems amazingly resilient to the upheaval, but is missing home.

"I like it is nice, the people are nice. But when I leave here I want to go back to New Orleans.    

"I don't have nobody to take me back there - but if I ever do go I will be going back to New Orleans, if I live to see it."  Glen Morgan is helping out at the camp's tented nursery, where children are playing with toys and games donated by well-wishers.  He says some see the site as a "pleasure resort" because evacuees pay no rent to Fema and get all their water, electricity and gas for free.

But there is little to do he says, and for those waiting for a payout and to move on, it feels like a "bureaucratic nightmare".

"We really appreciate what people have done for us," Mr Morgan says. "But there are a lot of issues still outstanding. We just need someone in authority to come down and listen to people."

Several of the trailer parks built in Florida after four major hurricanes in 2004 experienced widespread lawlessness.  New Orleans was infamous for its violent gangs and there were fears that history might repeat itself.

Yet Fema has acted to stop that happening. The trailer parks have their own security and Baker's is policed by the local sheriff's department. Residents must sign a good- conduct agreement and abide by Fema rules.

Baker's police force says there has been a small increase in shoplifting and petty crime, but nothing serious.

The town's mayor, Harold Rideau, says Baker has "opened its arms" to evacuees, but he is more concerned at the mounting costs of supporting the camp - and cleaning up after the hurricanes - which he puts at more than $800,000 and counting.

"It is a tremendous financial burden because we not only had to do the clean up, but also all the extra infrastructure, additional police protection - you're looking at additional firemen, health services and also public works," he told the BBC.

He thinks half of people in the park will ultimately stay - a big challenge for a small town.

In surveys since Katrina, about 50% of the 500,000 people evacuated from the affected area into other states have also indicated an unwillingness to return.

Some say such shifting demographics will herald political changes.
Experts in urban development warn that those planning for the ongoing housing needs of hundreds of thousands must be careful to not create communities that are so dense and sterile that no one wants to live in them.

Ruth Steiner, an associate professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida, has described the post-Katrina construction as "a milestone of urban planning" without precedent in US history.

She says the key is in striking a balance between making somewhere comfortable for people, but not so comfortable as to stop them wanting to leave.

Fema - which has already provided more than $4.4bn to 1.4 million families affected by the Gulf Coast hurricanes - sees trailer parks as a low-cost solution to the current housing problem.

But only time will measure the social costs - or rewards - they will bring to the people that live in them, and the communities that house them. 

Senate Panel Says FEMA Is Beyond Repair
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer
2:20 PM EDT, April 27, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Hurricane Katrina turned FEMA into a "symbol of a bumbling bureaucracy" so far beyond repair that it should be scrapped, senators said Thursday. They called for creation of a new disaster relief agency as the next storm season looms on the horizon.

The push to replace the beleaguered agency was the top recommendation of a hefty Senate inquiry that concluded that top officials from New Orleans to Washington failed to adequately prepare for and respond to the deadly storm, despite weather forecasts predicting its path through the Gulf Coast.

"The first obligation of government is to protect our people," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigation. "In Katrina, we failed at all levels of government to meet that fundamental obligation."

She added: "We must learn from the lessons of Katrina so that next time disaster strikes, whether it's a storm that was imminent and predicted for a long time, or a terror attack that takes us by surprise, government responds far more effectively."

The bipartisan report's executive summary gives President Bush a mixed review for his performance. It credits him for declaring an emergency before the hurricane's landfall, but faults him for waiting until two days after it hit to return to Washington and convene top officials to coordinate the federal response.

"The White House shares responsibility for the inadequate pre-landfall preparations," the summary says.

The inquiry's final report, given to lawmakers Thursday, faulted New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco for failing to protect sick and elderly people and others who could not evacuate the city on their own. It also concluded that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Michael Brown, who then headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, either did not understand federal response plans or refused to follow them.

But the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, heaped much of the blame on Bush and the White House, which he said "were not sufficiently engaged when they should have been initiating an aggressive response."

Even after the storm's Aug. 29 landfall, the White House "still seemed detached until two days later," said Lieberman, who faces a primary re-election challenge this year.

The bipartisan panel issued 86 recommendations for change that, taken together, indicate the United States is still woefully unprepared for a storm of Katrina's scope with the start of the hurricane season little more than a month away.

The probe follows similar inquiries by the House and White House and comes in an election year in which Democrats have seized on Katrina to attack the Bush administration. Bush was visiting Louisiana and Mississippi -- which bore the brunt of Katrina's wrath -- on Thursday.

Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. The storm killed more than 1,300 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, left hundreds of thousands of homeless and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage.

The recommendations conclude FEMA is crippled beyond repair by years of poor leadership and inadequate funding and call for a new agency -- the National Preparedness and Response Authority -- to plan and carry out relief missions for domestic disasters.

Unlike now, the authority would communicate directly with the president during major crises, and any dramatic cuts to budget or staffing levels would have to be approved by Congress. But it would remain within the Homeland Security Department and would continue receiving resources from the department.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said FEMA needs to be stripped out of the larger department and restored to an independent Cabinet-level agency. "That's how it was done in the past and it worked as we hoped," said Lautenberg, a member of the Senate panel.

The proposal also drew disdain from Homeland Security and its critics, both sides questioning the need for another bureaucratic shuffling that they said wouldn't accomplish much.

"It's time to stop playing around with the organizational charts and to start focusing on government, at all levels, that are preparing for this storm season," Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said.

Brown, who resigned under fire after Katrina, said the new agency would basically have the same mission FEMA had a year ago before its disaster planning responsibilities were taken away to focus solely on responding to calls for help.

"It sounds like they're just re-creating the wheel and making it look like they're calling for change," Brown said.

The House report, issued in February, similarly criticized Bush, Chertoff and Brown for moving too slowly to trigger federal relief. The White House report, which came a week later, took a softer tone and singled out Homeland Security for most of the breakdowns.

Down under, twin typhoons or cyclones...

Doesn't this look sort of like a Long Island beach house?  And Typhoon Haiyan has one big footprin.  Map:  red is destroyed and orange is heavily damaged - in Tacloban, Philippines.

Aerial view of flooding in Angono, east of Manila (29 September 2009)

Taiwan hotel collapses after typhoon. 
Weather forecasters predicting more heavy rain later in the week - 29 September 2009;  echo of disasters in Oct. 2010 and cyclones Down Under - Philippines 2013. and India.

During and after - a devastation complete.

India Prepares Evacuations of 100,000 Before Cyclone Helen Hits
November 21, 2013, 6:45 am

HYDERABAD, Andhra Pradesh — The National Disaster Management Authority was preparing on Thursday to evacuate nearly 100,000 people in four districts of coastal Andhra Pradesh as Cyclone Helen is expected to make landfall late Friday.

“The scenario has changed as per meteorological reports in the last 24 hours,” said Marri Shashidhar Reddy, vice chairman of National Disaster Management Authority. “Cyclone Helen has changed direction slightly and become slower on sea. Initial reports had the cyclone making landfall on Thursday night, but with the cyclone taking a changed track now, it will hit only late evening tomorrow.”

Mr. Reddy said the point of landfall has also shifted from Kavali in the district of Nellore to a point about 70 kilometers (40 miles) farther north. The districts of Nellore, Prakasam, Guntur and Krishna in southern coastal Andhra Pradesh will most likely face maximum impact, he said.

The total number of evacuees would be below 100,000, he said, including an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 in Nellore, around 18,000 each in Prakasam and Guntur and 34,000 in Krishna.

Andhra Pradesh was one of the three states to be hit by Cyclone Phailin last month, but thanks to adequate evacuations, casualties were minimal.

“The intensity of Helen is far lower than Phailin,” Mr. Reddy said. The delay of 18 to 24 hours to landfall has made it easier to ensure zero casualties, he said.

The cyclone, which is expected to have speeds of 100 to 110 kilometers per hour, has been categorized as a “super cyclone” but is likely to weaken in 12 hours to become a deep depression, Mr. Reddy said.

Teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed across the region for the coming cyclone and are coordinating with local administrations.

“We have put the state government and local administrations in all four districts on high alert,” said Mr. Reddy. “We did not evacuate people yesterday but were on a standby. With the change in direction, the areas of vulnerability are also shifting; we will act accordingly. The slowing of the cyclone gives us more time till tomorrow. We are aiming for a zero casualty mark.”

The Indian Meteorological Department said Cyclone Helen, whose center was over the western-central parts of the Bay of Bengal, will cause heavy to very heavy rainfall in most parts of southern Andhra Pradesh and eastern Tamil Nadu.

The cyclone is likely to lead to a surge in sea levels of one to 1.5 meters (three to five feet) in the four districts where impact is expected to be greatest, the meteorological agency said. With the conditions of the sea being extremely volatile, state and local government officials have warned fishermen not to venture out.

Sriram Karri is a freelance journalist based in Hyderabad.

Interesting link to geothermal energy!

Devastation in Typhoon’s Path Slows Relief in Philippines
November 11, 2013

CEBU, Philippines — The scale of the devastation and the desperation wrought by one of the most powerful storms ever to buffet the Philippines came into much clearer view on Monday, three days after it hopscotched across the country’s midsection whipping up monstrous walls of seawater.

Survivors spoke of people being swept away in tsunami-like torrents, their corpses strewn among the wreckage of the storm, Typhoon Haiyan. Photos from the hard-hit city of Tacloban showed vast stretches swept clean of homes, and reports emerged of people who were desperate for food and water raiding aid convoys and stripping the stores that had been left standing.

Residents of Tacloban described a terrifying experience on Friday evening in which seawater suddenly filled the streets, rising within minutes until it had submerged the ground floors of homes and was waist-deep on the second floors of those that had second floors. Screaming people bobbed in the water — many grabbing for floating debris, but not all succeeding.

“Swirling water from the ocean filled the streets,” said Virginia Basinang, 54, a retired teacher in Tacloban. “Some of them were able to hold on, some were lucky and lived, but most did not.” When the water receded, 14 bodies lay on the broken wall of the house across the street from her home, Ms. Basinang said. They were still there on Monday, she said.

As Monday dawned, it became increasingly obvious that Typhoon Haiyan’s destructive force had been exponentially worse than first assumed, ravaging cities, towns and fishing villages across the islands of the central Philippines on Friday.

By some estimates, at least 10,000 people may have died in Tacloban alone, and with phone service out across stretches of the far-flung archipelago, it was difficult to know if the storm was as deadly in more remote areas.

The storm barreled across palm-fringed beaches and plowed into frail homes with a force that by some estimates approached that of a tornado.

The main effect, however, increasingly appeared to be a storm surge that was driven by the winds, believed to be among the strongest ever recorded in the Philippines, lifting walls of water onto the land as they struck. By some accounts, the winds reached 190 miles an hour.

“We are seeing a lot of dead throughout the province,” said Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., a spokesman for the Philippine armed forces. “I have been in the service for 32 years, and I have been involved with a lot of calamities. I don’t have words to describe what our ground commanders are seeing in the field.”

As aid crews struggled to reach ravaged areas, the storm exposed some of the perennial problems of the Philippines. The country’s roads and airports, long starved of money by corrupt and incompetent governments, are some of the worst in Southeast Asia and often make traveling long distances a trial. On Monday, clogged with debris from splintered buildings and shattered trees, the roads in the storm’s path were slowing rescue teams.

Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said that a Red Cross aid convoy to Tacloban had to turn back on Sunday after it stopped at a collapsed bridge and was nearly hijacked by a crowd of hungry people. “There is very little food going in, and what food there was, was captured” by the crowd, Mr. Gordon said Monday morning in a telephone interview.

The storm posed new challenges for President Benigno S. Aquino III, who just two months ago struggled to wrest control of a major city in the south from insurgents. Mr. Aquino has been praised at home and abroad for his fight against corruption during his three and a half years in office, leading to increased foreign investment and an impressive growth rate. But he must still contend with Muslim separatists in the south and with provinces that have long been the domains of regional strongmen, resistant to government control.

Now added to that list was one of the country’s worst natural disasters, at a time when emergency funds have been depleted by other calamities, most notably a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck the middle of the country four weeks ago. On Monday, amid rising fears of a breakdown of law and order after reports of widespread looting and robberies, the government said it was flying more police officers to the region.

Although deadly storms are not unusual in the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan appears to stand apart, both in the ferocity of its winds, which some described as sounding like a freight train, and in its type of destruction.

Most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines are caused by mudslides and rain-swollen rivers. So when Haiyan sped across the islands on Friday, some officials and weather experts in the Philippines thought they had witnessed something of a miracle. The storm that lit up social media for days with dire warnings was thought to have mostly spared the islands because it did not linger long enough to dump a deluge of rain.

What they did not account for was a storm surge that some reports said reached 13 feet in Tacloban, leaving a trail of destruction that in some ways mirrored a tsunami. One photo of a merchant ship left stranded on land resembled images from Japan in 2011, when an earthquake flung a wall of water onto that nation’s northeastern shore.

Prof. Rick Murray, an oceanographer with expertise in Asian climate systems at Boston University’s department of earth and environment, said in an email that several factors contributed to Haiyan’s destructiveness, starting with its intensity. “Just by looking at the satellite images, the eye is perfectly formed,” he said. “The storm is tight, nearly perfectly circular, with incredibly high wind speeds. It is right out of the textbooks.”

The low atmospheric pressure of the storm’s eye helped pull the storm surge, in which water can rise by dozens of feet very rapidly, Professor Murray said. “This is, of course, on top of the wind, on top of the waves, on top of the normal tidal cycle,” he said. “You have swollen rivers from the intense rain, falling at inches per hour. The bottom line is that there is a heck of a lot of water arriving from all directions.”

While it was unclear whether the power of the storm was tied to climate change, the surge may serve as another reminder to low-lying cities of the need to prepare for the worst.

Mr. Aquino had urged residents to leave low-lying areas, but he did not order an evacuation. On Sunday, he toured some stricken areas and declared a “state of calamity,” a first step in the release of emergency money from the government.

As Mr. Aquino arrived in Tacloban to meet with victims of the storm and to coordinate rescue and cleanup efforts, his defense secretary, Voltaire Gazmin, described the chaos in the city of 220,000. “There is no power, no water, nothing,” Mr. Gazmin said. “People are desperate.”

Richard Heydarian, a foreign policy adviser to the Philippine Congress, said, “The challenge now is mobilization and reconstruction and rehabilitation of the affected areas, and I think the president is determined to showcase his leadership now and underscore the importance of the national government.”

Lynette Lim, a spokeswoman for Save the Children, weathered the storm in a local government office in Tacloban before leaving the city on a military aircraft Sunday morning. She said that even schools, gymnasiums and other sites the local government had designated as evacuation centers had failed to hold up.

“The roofs had been ripped off, the windows had shattered and sometimes the ceilings had caved in,” Ms. Lim said in a telephone interview from Manila.

Poor neighborhoods fared especially badly, with virtually no structures left standing other than a few government buildings. With no police officers in sight on Sunday morning, Ms. Lim said, people had begun grabbing food and other items off pharmacy and grocery shelves.

Video from Tacloban on ABS-CBN television showed scores of people entering stores and stuffing suitcases and bags with clothing and housewares. One photo showed a man with a gun guarding his store.

News reports from Tacloban told of how officials were unable to get an accurate death count because law enforcement and government personnel could not be found after the storm. Tacloban’s mayor, Alfred S. Romualdez, was reported to have been “holding on to his roof” before being rescued, according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The storm also appeared to have obliterated most structures in northern Panay Island, about 300 miles west. While the number of deaths was unclear, fishing boats in Estancia, a busy Panay port, were returning Monday morning with hauls of corpses that had been swept out to sea.

“We retrieved 11 more bodies from the ocean today, and they are still washing ashore,” said Eugene Tentativo, Estancia’s disaster risk reduction officer. “The morgues are full.”

The weakened typhoon made landfall early Monday in Vietnam; hundreds of thousands of people there had been evacuated as the storm approached, but there were no reports of significant damage or injuries, according to The Associated Press. Haiyan was downgraded to a tropical storm as it entered southern China, The A.P. said.

International aid agencies and foreign governments sent emergency teams to the Philippines. At the request of the Philippine government, the United States defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, ordered the deployment of ships and aircraft to deliver supplies and help in the search-and-rescue efforts, the Defense Department said. The United States Embassy in Manila made $100,000 immediately available for health and sanitation efforts, according to its Twitter feed.

President Obama issued a statement on Sunday that said he expected “the incredible resiliency of the Philippine people” to help the country, an American ally, through the trauma. He said the United States also stood ready to assist the government’s relief and recovery efforts.

On Sunday, about 90 American Marines and sailors based in Okinawa, Japan, landed in the Philippines as part of an advance team assessing the disaster to determine what the Pentagon might need to help in relief efforts.

According to Col. Brad Bartlet, a Marine spokesman, the team has made requests for C-130 cargo airplanes, MV-22 Osprey helicopters and other aircraft to participate in search and recovery at sea. The Navy has also sent two P-3 Orion surveillance planes, which are often used during natural disasters to patrol the seas in search of survivors stranded in ships and boats.

Mar Roxas, the Philippine interior minister, said that while relief supplies were beginning to reach the Tacloban airport, they could go no farther because debris was blocking the roads in the area.

“The entire airport was under water up to roof level,” Mr. Roxas said, according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Speaking to reporters in Tacloban, he added, “The devastation here is absolute.”

Robert S. Zeigler, the director general of the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Philippines, said he was concerned that the damage reports seemed to be mainly from Tacloban, where aid has been concentrated so far, and not from the many fishing communities that line the coast.

“The coastal areas can be quite vulnerable — in many cases, you have fishing communities right up to the shoreline, and they can be wiped out” by a powerful storm surge, he said. “The disturbing reports are the lack of reports, and the areas that are cut off could be quite severely hit.”

On Panay Island, Mary Ann Baitan, 42, said she cowered with her two daughters, 6 and 10, under a bamboo table for more than two hours, singing to them as winds ripped away the roof of their home in Banat, another hard-hit town. “All we could do was hide and pray,” she said.

Across Cebu Province, 43 people were killed, 111 were injured and five were missing, said Wilson Ramos, the deputy disaster management officer for Cebu. The authorities were trying to conduct aerial surveys of the area directly in the storm’s center, particularly the town of Daanbantayan and Bantayan Island, Mr. Ramos said.

“We are very tired already,” he said in the province’s disaster offices. “But we hope to send relief to those affected.”

Residents of Cebu, one of the country’s largest cities, said many roads to the north of Cebu Island were still closed after towns there suffered heavy damage, although the city was spared the brunt of the storm.

“It was very loud, like a train,” said Ranulfo L. Manatad, a night watchman at a street market in Mandaue City, on the northern outskirts of Cebu.

In Mabolo, another town on the northern flank of Cebu, the winds toppled a locally famous tree with a trunk roughly a yard in diameter. The tree had withstood every typhoon for more than a century.

Reporting was contributed by Gerry Mullany from Hong Kong; Floyd Whaley from Estancia, Philippines; Austin Ramzy from Cebu, Philippines; Mark Mazzetti from Washington; and Alan Feuer from New York.

Devastation Feared Across Central Philippines in Typhoon’s Wake
November 10, 2013

CEBU, Philippines — One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded now appears to have devastated cities, towns and fishing villages with heavy loss of life when it played a deadly form of hopscotch across the islands of the central Philippines on Friday.

Barreling across palm-fringed beaches and plowing into frail homes with a force that by some estimates approached that of a tornado, but sprawling across a huge area of this far-flung archipelago, Typhoon Haiyan delivered a crippling blow to this country’s midsection. Disorder and looting over the weekend compounded the destruction.

President Benigno S. Aquino III declared a “state of calamity” in provinces encompassing islands across the breadth of the Philippines. The declaration is devised to release emergency funds from the national coffers.

But those coffers have already been depleted this year by a series of other natural disasters, most notably an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 that also struck the middle of the country four weeks ago.

The first and most vocal city to cry for help over the weekend was Tacloban on Leyte Island, which was also one of the first places hit by the storm. In many other communities along the storm’s track, virtually all communications were cut off.

The typhoon left Tacloban in ruins, as a storm surge as high as 13 feet overwhelmed its streets, with reports from the scene saying that most of the houses had been damaged or destroyed in the city of 220,000. More than 300 bodies have already been recovered, said Tecson John S. Lim, the city administrator, adding that the toll could reach 10,000 in Tacloban alone.

Lynette Lim, a Save the Children spokeswoman, weathered the storm in a government office in Tacloban, leaving the city on a military aircraft on Sunday morning. She said that even schools, gymnasiums and other sites designated by the local government as evacuation centers had failed to hold up against the powerful winds.

“The roofs had been ripped off, the windows had shattered and sometimes the ceilings had caved in,” she said in a telephone interview from Manila. Low-income neighborhoods fared especially badly, with virtually no structures left standing except a few government buildings.

Mr. Aquino arrived on Sunday in Tacloban to meet with victims of the storm and to coordinate rescue and cleanup efforts. His defense secretary, Voltaire Gazmin, described a chaotic scene there.

“There is no power, no water, nothing,” Mr. Gazmin said. “People are desperate. They’re looting.”

The lack of clear information about the extent of the damage raised the possibility that other areas could have been hit just as badly as Tacloban, where rescue efforts were being concentrated.

News reports from Tacloban told of how officials were unable to get an accurate assessment of the fatalities because law enforcement and government personnel could not be found after the storm, with Tacloban’s mayor, Alfred S. Romualdez, “holding on to his roof” before being rescued, according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

On Sunday, the typhoon began turning its deadly force toward central and northern Vietnam, where more than 500,000 people were evacuated even as meteorologists said the storm had begun weakening from the sustained winds of 190 miles per hour that it brought to the Philippines. But as it neared the mainland, it turned northward, its eye skirting the Vietnamese coastline.

Aid efforts in the Philippines were complicated by the magnitude of the devastation, as communications systems were shut down by the storm. But already, international aid agencies and foreign governments were rushing to dispatch emergency teams.

At the request of the Philippine government, the United States defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, ordered the deployment of ships and aircraft to bring in emergency supplies and help in the search-and-rescue operations, the Defense Department said. The United States Embassy in Manila made $100,000 immediately available for health and sanitation efforts, its Twitter feed said. A United Nations disaster assessment team was already on the ground.

“The last time I saw something on this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, the head of the United Nations team, said in a statement, referring to the 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Indonesia and 13 other countries. “This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed.”

Mar Roxas, the Philippine interior minister, said that while relief supplies for Tacloban had already begun arriving, they could not leave the airport because debris was blocking the roads in the area.

“The entire airport was under water up to roof level,” he said, according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Photos and television footage from the affected areas showed fierce winds ripping tin roofs off homes and sending waves crashing into wooden buildings that splintered under the force. Large ships were tossed onshore, and vehicles were shown piled atop one another. Video footage from Tacloban showed ocean water rushing through the streets of the city, which is about 360 miles southeast of Manila and is the capital of the province of Leyte.

Robert S. Ziegler, the director general of the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Philippines, said that he was very concerned that the damage reports seemed to be mainly from Tacloban and not from the many fishing communities that line the coast.

“The coastal areas can be quite vulnerable — in many cases, you have fishing communities right up to the shoreline, and they can be wiped out” by a powerful storm surge of the sort that hit Tacloban, he said. “The disturbing reports are the lack of reports, and the areas that are cut off could be quite severely hit.”

The research institute, which is one of the world’s most famous agricultural research institutes, is near Manila, and far enough north that “all we experienced was some rain and some wind,” Mr. Ziegler said by telephone.

Video from Tacloban on ABS-CBN television showed widespread looting in the city, with scores of people descending on stores and stuffing suitcases and bags with clothing and housewares.

Looting began by mid-day on Saturday, Ms. Limshe said, with no police in sight then or even on Sunday morning. “Everything that could be looted, was,” she said, saying that pharmacies and grocery stores had been picked clean.

Residents of Cebu, one of the country’s largest cities, said that many roads to the north of Cebu Island were still closed after towns there suffered very heavy damage as the typhoon slammed its way through. The roar of the wind during the typhoon was punctuated by the shattering of windows, residents said, although the city of Cebu itself was spared the brunt of the storm.

“It was very loud, like a train,” said Ranulfo L. Manatad, a night watchman at a street market in Mandaue City, on the northern outskirts of Cebu City.

In Mabolo, another town on the city’s northern outskirts, the winds toppled a locally famous tree with a trunk roughly a yard in diameter that had withstood every typhoon for more than a century. The tree damaged a wall of St. Joseph’s Church, but no one was injured, residents said.

The extent of the damage across the country and the rising death toll threatened to make the typhoon the worst storm in Philippine history. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the deadliest storm to hit the Philippines until now was Tropical Storm Thelma, which flooded the town of Ormoc, on Leyte Island, on Nov. 5, 1991, and killed more than 5,000 people.

On Samar Island, which is across the Philippine Sea from Tacloban, Leo N. Dacaynos of the local disaster office said the local death toll from the typhoon was at least 300 people, and he said 2,000 others were missing, The Associated Press reported.

The Social Welfare and Development Office said the storm affected 4.28 million people in about 270 towns and cities spread across 36 provinces in the central Philippines.

'Massive destruction' as typhoon kills at least 1,200 in Philippines, says Red Cross
Hartford Courant
Manuel Mogato, Reuters
8:45 AM EST, November 9, 2013

TACLOBAN, Philippines (Reuters) - One of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall devastated the central Philippines, killing more than 1,000 people in one city alone and 200 in another province, the Red Cross estimated on Saturday, as reports of high casualties began to emerge.

A day after Typhoon Haiyan churned through the Philippine archipelago in a straight line from east to west, rescue teams struggled to reach far-flung regions, hampered by washed out roads, many choked with debris and fallen trees.

The death toll is expected to rise sharply from the fast-moving storm, whose circumference eclipsed the whole country and which late on Saturday was heading for Vietnam.

Among the hardest hit was coastal Tacloban in central Leyte province, where preliminary estimates suggest more than 1,000 people were killed, said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, as water surges rushed through the city.

"An estimated more than 1,000 bodies were seen floating in Tacloban as reported by our Red Cross teams," she told Reuters. "In Samar, about 200 deaths. Validation is ongoing."

She expected a more exact number to emerge after a more precise counting of bodies on the ground in those regions.

Witnesses said bodies covered in plastic were lying on the streets. Television footage shows cars piled atop each other.

"The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami," said Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the U.N. Disaster Assessment Coordination Team sent to Tacloban, referring to the 2004 earthquake and tsunami.

"This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris."

The category 5 "super typhoon" weakened to a category 4 on Saturday, though forecasters said it could strengthen again over the South China Sea en route to Vietnam.

Authorities in 15 provinces in Vietnam have started to call back boats and prepare for possible landslides. Nearly 300,000 people were moved to safer areas in two provinces alone - Da Nang and Quang Nam - according to the government's website.

The Philippines has yet to restore communications with officials in Tacloban, a city of about 220,000. A government official estimated at least 100 were killed and more than 100 wounded, but conceded the toll would likely rise sharply.

The national disaster agency has yet to confirm the toll but broken power poles, trees, bent tin roofs and splintered houses littered the streets of the city about 580 km (360 miles) southeast of Manila.


The airport was nearly destroyed as raging seawaters swept through the city, shattering the glass of the airport tower, leveling the terminal and overturning nearby vehicles.

"Almost all houses were destroyed, many are totally damaged. Only a few are left standing," said Major Rey Balido, a spokesman for the national disaster agency.

Local television network ABS-CBN showed images of looting in one of the city's biggest malls, with residents carting away everything from appliances to suitcases and grocery items.

Airport manager Efren Nagrama, 47, said water levels rose up to four meters (13 ft) in the airport.

"It was like a tsunami. We escaped through the windows and I held on to a pole for about an hour as rain, seawater and wind swept through the airport. Some of my staff survived by clinging to trees. I prayed hard all throughout until the water subsided."

Across the country, about a million people took shelter in 37 provinces after President Benigno Aquino appealed to those in the typhoon's path to leave vulnerable areas.

"For casualties, we think it will be substantially more," Aquino told reporters.

Officials started evacuating residents from low-lying areas, coastlines and hilly villages as early as three days before the typhoon struck on Friday, officials said. But not all headed the call to evacuate.

"I saw those big waves and immediately told my neighbors to flee," said Floremil Mazo, a villager in southeastern Davao Oriental province.

Meteorologists said the impact may not be as strong as feared because the storm was moving so quickly, reducing the risk of flooding and landslides from torrential rain, the biggest causes of typhoon casualties in the Philippines.

Ferry services and airports in the central Philippines remained closed, hampering aid deliveries to Tacloban, although the military said three C-130 transport planes managed to land at its airport on Saturday.

At least two people were killed on the tourist destination island of Cebu, three in Iloilo province and another three in Coron town in southwestern Palawan province, radio reports said.

"I never thought the winds would be that strong that they could destroy my house," LynLyn Golfan of Cebu said in a television interview while sifting through the debris.

By Saturday afternoon, the typhoon was hovering 765 km west of San Jose in southwestern Occidental Mindoro province, packing winds of a maximum 185 kph, with gusts of up to 220 kph.

The storm lashed the islands of Leyte and Samar with 275-kph wind gusts and 5-6 meter (15-19 ft) waves on Friday before scouring the northern tip of Cebu province. It weakened slightly as it moved west-northwest near the tourist island of Boracay, later hitting Mindoro island.

Haiyan was the second category 5 typhoon to hit the Philippines this year after Typhoon Usagi in September. An average of 20 typhoons strike every year, and Haiyan was the 24th so far this year.

Last year, Typhoon Bopha flattened three towns in southern Mindanao, killing 1,100 people and causing damage of more than $1 billion.

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco, Manuel Mogato and Karen Lema in Manila and Nguyen Phuong Linh in Hanoi; Editing by Jason Szep and Nick Macfie)

Copyright © 2013, Reuters

One of the strongest typhoons ever slams Philippines
Modal Trigger, NYPOST
November 8, 2013 | 3:38am

MANILA, Philippines — One of the strongest storms ever recorded slammed into the central Philippines on Friday, setting off landslides and knocking out power and communication lines in several provinces. At least four people died.

Huge, fast-paced Typhoon Haiyan raced across a string of islands from east to west — Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Panay— and lashed beach communities with over 125 mile per hour winds. Nearly 720,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.

Due to cut-off communications, it was impossible to know the full extent of casualties and damage. At least two people were electrocuted in storm-related accidents, one person was killed by a fallen tree and another was struck by lightning, official reports said.

Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said the super typhoon triggered landslides that blocked roads, uprooted trees and ripped roofs off houses around his residence.

The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.

“When you’re faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray,” Mercado told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that mayors in the province had not called in to report any major damage.

“I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around,” he said. “My worst fear is there will be massive loss of lives and property.”

Weather officials said Haiyan had sustained winds of 147 mph with gusts of 170 mph when it made landfall. That makes it the strongest typhoon this year, said Aldczar Aurelio of the government’s weather bureau.

Eduardo del Rosario, head of the disaster response agency, said a typhoon of similar strength that hit the Philippines in 1990 killed 508 people and left 246 missing, but this time authorities had taken pre-emptive evacuation and other measures to minimize casualties.

The Philippines, which is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, has in recent years become more serious about preparations to reduce deaths. Public service announcements are more frequent as are warnings issued by the president and high-ranking officials, regularly carried on radio and TV and social networking sites.

Provincial governors and mayors have taken a hands-on approach during crises, supervising evacuations, inspecting shelters and efforts to stockpile food and relief supplies.

By 5 p.m. Friday, the typhoon — one of the strongest storms ever — was centered to the west of Aklan province on Panay Island, 200 miles south of Manila, after blasting the island resort of Boracay.

Forecasters said it was expected to move out over water south of Mindoro island Friday evening and into the South China Sea on Saturday, heading toward Vietnam.

Among the evacuees were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters after a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit the island province last month.

Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private company Weather Underground, said the storm was poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of “catastrophic damage.”

But he said the Philippines might get a small break because the storm is so fast moving that flooding from heavy rains — usually the cause of most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines — may not be as bad.

The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said shortly before the typhoon made landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 195 mph, with gusts up to 235 mph. Those measurements are different than local weather data because the U.S. Navy center measures the average wind speed for 1 minute while local forecasters measure the average for 10 minutes.

Hurricane Camille, a powerful 1969 storm, had wind speeds that reached 190 mph at landfall in the United States, Masters said.

President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.

Warnings Help India’s Response to Cyclone
October 13, 2013

NEW DELHI — A monstrous cyclone has struck India’s eastern coastline and washed away thousands of mud homes, knocked out power and communications, and blocked many of the region’s roads. But the storm also demonstrated how much India has transformed itself in recent years.

The authorities evacuated about 800,000 people, one of the largest such evacuations in India’s history. The storm’s maximum sustained winds, which were approximately 200 kilometers, or 124 miles, per hour, when the storm made landfall about 9 p.m. Saturday, dropped to about 80 kilometers per hour by midafternoon Sunday.

There were scattered reports of deaths that together climbed past 20 by midday Sunday, including five people in the coastal city of Gopalpur. The reports said most died from tree falls in the hours before the storm landed. The cyclone, named Phailin, was expected to drop up to 25 centimeters, or 10 inches, of rain over two days in some areas.

Just 14 years ago, a cyclone in roughly the same place killed more than 10,000 people — another in more than a century of predictably deadly cyclones to roar out of the Bay of Bengal. While an accurate assessment of Phailin’s effects will probably take weeks, there were tentative signs Sunday that the death toll was likely to be relatively modest.

There are many reasons for the change, but a vastly improved communications system is probably the most important. Nearly a billion people routinely use mobile phones in India, up from fewer than 40 million at the turn of the century. Even many of the poorest villages now have televisions, and India’s media market is saturated with 24-hour news channels that have blanketed the nation’s airwaves with coverage of the storm.

Many villagers refused to leave land and livestock during the worst of the storm, according to many reports. But almost none were unaware of the coming danger. And that is a huge change.

Jibanananda Mohanty, a retired veterinary surgeon from Bhubaneshwar in Odisha, said by telephone Sunday that he had spent a harrowing night listening to howling winds and crashing trees outside, and his home remained without electricity and water Sunday. But he had days to store enough water, milk, vegetables and other supplies to carry him through.

“Because of the advanced warning, we were prepared for this situation,” Dr. Mohanty said. “I haven't heard any loss of life in my neighborhood.”

India’s state and central governments spent days preparing for the worst. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement Saturday that he had been briefed on preparations for the storm and had directed that the central government extend all needed assistance to state officials.

Service members from the country’s army, air force and navy were deployed to help in rescue and relief operations, A.K. Antony, India’s defense minister, said.

The air force deployed C-130 aircraft, recently purchased from the United States, to help in the efforts, and the navy had diving teams with inflatable rafts deployed at important locations, Mr. Antony said. Military helicopters were also available for rescues, he said.

Visakhapatnam, which was near the center of the storm, experienced little damage apart from a collapsed seawall in the fishing colony. By 9 a.m., the sun was shining, businesses had opened at their usual times, and traffic had resumed its usual chaos. People emerged from their homes Sunday with a sense of relief and, in some case, an I-knew-it-all-along attitude.

Tousis Ahmed, who is employed in India’s emerging technology industry, stayed out late on Saturday night and even swung by the beach, which had been cordoned off, to check on the ocean.

“The waves were calm. So I went home and had a sound sleep,” Mr. Ahmed, 30, said.

B. Murkandarao, a street fruit vendor, said he stayed open for business Saturday night until his usual hour and was back in business Sunday morning. “They tried to scare us on TV, but I was never worried,” he said.

Indian storm experts may have struck the right note of caution in contrast to those in the United States, where forecasts were far more alarmist than those made in India.

Late Friday, the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said the storm, then barreling across the Bay of Bengal, had maximum sustained winds of 259 kilometers per hour, with gusts reaching 315 kilometers per hour, — making it similar to a Category 5 hurricane, the most severe. That was a far more alarming assessment than the one being made at the time by the India Meteorological Department. Perhaps most tellingly, India’s experts predicted a storm surge no higher than about 3.5 meters, or 11 feet, while some in the United States predicted a surge nearly twice that high.

Once the storm arrived on land, its intensity seemed more in line with Indian predictions, and Indian officials defended their more measured forecast as having been more accurate.

“We are not trying to downplay the intensity of the cyclone,” M. Shashidhar Reddy, the vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said at a news conference Saturday. “In fact, U.S. authorities are overplaying it.”

On Saturday, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, in Hawaii, reduced its estimates, saying they showed maximum sustained winds of about 222 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 270 kilometers per hour — still more severe than the Indian assessments at the time.

Powerful cyclones in the Bay of Bengal have a history of being particularly deadly because the geography funnels the storms into some of the most densely populated and poorest regions in the world. About 12 million people were in the storm’s path, according to Indian officials.

Raja Reddy, a hotel management student from the Guntur district, finished his shift at a sports bar well past midnight on Saturday. He said he was worried for the people in Odisha and for the fishermen, but was never concerned about himself.

“We had a lot of customers last night, and we kept waiting for the cyclone to come,” said Mr. Reddy, 22. “Everybody was getting calls from their families in other places, because the news was so scary yesterday. But nothing happened even late at night.”

Fishermen said that although damage and death seemed minimal, the storm had frightened them.

“The waves were 20 to 30 meters high,” said Ramu Vasuranna, a 26-year-old fisherman. “I had never seen the ocean like that.”

The Bay of Bengal region is among the most vulnerable in the world to the effects of climate change, as experts have predicted that storms are likely to become more intense and the at-risk population continues to grow. So the government’s relatively effective management of Phailin represents a hopeful sign.

K. Baliah, a district official involved in rescue efforts, said coastal residents had been reluctant to leave until they saw the sea rise. “At first they refused to leave their properties,” he said. Then, “when the water started to enter their communities around 2 p.m., the people decided themselves that they must leave.”

A key difference between this storm and the one 14 years ago was that such late departures could be made relatively safely. A building boom across India over the past decade has resulted in the construction of countless concrete schools, government facilities, hotels and homes, so storm shelters now abound.

Malavika Vyawahare and Hari Kumar contributed reporting from New Delhi, and Vivekananda Nemana from Visakhapatnam.

Major Cyclone Causes Mass Evacuations in India
October 12, 2013

NEW DELHI — A monstrous cyclone that may be among the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal started to bear down on the eastern coast of India Saturday with heavy rains and high winds.

Indian authorities warned late Saturday morning that the storm, called Cyclone Phailin, would probably make landfall by 6 p.m. Saturday near Gopalpur, Odisha, a largely rural area. Indian authorities called Phailin a “very severe cyclonic storm” with sustained winds of 136 miles per hour, with gusts reaching nearly 150 m.p.h.

Some 440,000 people have already been evacuated from the path of the storm, M. Shashidhar Reddy, vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said at a news conference in New Delhi on Saturday afternoon.

The Indian predictions have so far been less alarming than those from U.S. meteorological authorities. Late Friday, the United States Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said that Phailin had sustained winds of 161 m.p.h., with gusts reaching 196 m.p.h. – making it similar to a Category 5 hurricane, the most severe. American meteorological authorities have appeared on Indian TV channels and have almost universally sounded more alarmed about the coming storm than their Indian counterparts.

Indian authorities predicted a storm surge of as much as 10 feet, high enough to inundate low-lying areas in both Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, both of which lie southwest of Kolkata. Rainfall is expected to be heavy in some places, with as much as 10 inches of rain falling between Saturday and Monday, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Forecasters were predicting extensive damage to the region’s traditional wood and bamboo houses, serious crop losses and the disruption of rail and road traffic because of extensive flooding.

Officials ordered hundreds of thousands of villagers to leave their homes and take shelter in safer buildings. Tourists were evacuated from hotels in the region, which is just southwest of the major metropolitan area of Kolkata.

“We have been preparing for the last five days,” said P. K. Mohapatra, a special relief commissioner in Odisha, according to the Indian news media. “We have pressed the national disaster management force, air force and army for any eventuality.”

The storm is likely to be the strongest storm to hit India in at least 14 years, and it comes in the midst of a crippling strike in Andhra Pradesh by government workers, who have shut down much of the state’s electrical grid over the past week. After hearing a plea from the state’s chief minister, workers agreed to restore power to much of Andhra Pradesh on Friday. Andhra Pradesh has a population of 82 million, and any major disruptions could have huge consequences in terms of the number of people affected.

Odisha, with a population of nearly 42 million, is one of India’s poorest states, with a largely agricultural population that could be devastated by the storm.

Powerful typhoon kills 20 in southern China, swipes Hong Kong
HONG KONG | Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:46pm EDT

(Reuters) - A powerful typhoon hit Hong Kong and the southern China coast on Monday, killing at least 20 people on the mainland, crippling power lines and causing flooding and gale force winds.  Typhoon Usagi, the strongest storm to hit the Western Pacific this year, began pounding the Asian financial center late on Sunday. More than 370 flights were canceled.

The No. 8 signal warning remained in force early on Monday, with financial markets closed for at least part of the morning. The weather observatory said the storm had weakened from "super" typhoon status and that it would consider lowering the warning signal before 10 a.m. (0200 GMT)

China's National Meteorological Centre issued its highest alert, with more than 80,000 people moved to safety in Fujian province and authorities deploying at least 50,000 disaster-relief workers, state Xinhua news agency reported.  At least 20 people were killed on China's southern coast, television reports said, including 13 in Shanwei in the eastern fringes of Guangdong province.  The victims included people hit by debris and others who had drowned. One man was killed by a falling window pane.

"It is the strongest typhoon I have ever encountered," Xinhua quoted Luo Hailing, a gas station attendant in Shanwei, as saying. "So terrible, lucky we made preparations."

Winds of more than 180 km/hour (110 mph) were recorded in some parts of southern China, toppling trees, cranes and blowing cars off roads in some areas.  The storm had earlier brought down three major power lines in coastal Fujian, cutting off electricity supplies to about 170,000 households, Xinhua reported.  In Guangdong province, a major base for Chinese nuclear power, the Daya Bay nuclear power plant just east of Hong Kong had initiated emergency response schemes, Xinhua said.  Four of the six power-generating units at the plant had been ordered to operate at reduced load.  Airlines canceled flights to cities in southern Guangdong and Fujian, while shipping was suspended between China and Taiwan, state media said.

Despite earlier warnings the typhoon could pose a severe risk to Hong Kong, the city suffered only minimal damage, including toppled trees. There were no fatalities in the city.  The Hong Kong Exchange delayed the start of trading on securities and derivatives markets due to the typhoon.

There will be no trading in the morning if the typhoon signal remains at 8 or higher at 9 a.m Hong Kong time (0100 GMT), with trading suspended for the whole day if storm signal 8 is still up at noon.  Schools, businesses and non-essential government services will also close while storm signal 8 remains hoisted.

Usagi lashed the east and south coasts of Taiwan on Saturday after slamming into the Philippines' northernmost islands, where it cut communication and power lines and triggered landslides.

Super typhoon cuts power, unleashes landslides in northern Philippines
MANILA | Sat Sep 21, 2013 4:15am EDT

(Reuters) - The year's most powerful typhoon slammed into the Philippines' northernmost islands on Saturday, cutting communication and power lines, triggering landslides and inundating rice fields, officials said.

Packing winds of 185 kph (114 mph) near the center and gusts of up to 220 kph, Typhoon Usagi weakened after hitting the Batanes island group, and is moving slowly west-northwest at 19 kph towards southern China, the weather bureau said.

Usagi, which has been labeled a super typhoon, made landfall on Itbayat, the Philippine island closest to Taiwan, toppling communication and power lines, uprooting trees, causing landslides and flooding rice and garlic farms.

"It's rare that we suffer casualties as a result of typhoons," Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a former congressman for Batanes, told Reuters, saying the province had not experienced a powerful typhoon in 25 years.

"A flash flood occurred and trees were uprooted from the mountain and swept by roiling waters to the town. Many houses lost their roofs or were destroyed. Damage to crops is heavy and landslides were reported all around."

Sea and air travel have been suspended since Friday, with fishermen urged to bring their boats in due to strong winds and giant waves. Emergency workers were sent to the rescue of affected households in the province of nearly 16,000 people.  About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines each year, on average. In 2011, Typhoon Washi killed 1,200 people, destroyed more than 10,000 homes and displaced 200,000 people.

Bopha, the strongest storm to hit in 2012, flattened three coastal towns on the southern island of Mindanao, killing 1,100 people and destroying crops, property and infrastructure worth more than $1 billion.

In Bangladesh, More Shelter From the Storms
July 24, 2013, 7:00 am

KHULNA, Bangladesh — In May 2009, Cyclone Aila swept over the southwestern coast of this country and lashed the small village where Rashida Gazi and her husband Rezaul live. The middle-aged couple, who eked out a living from farming and raising livestock in Koyra, knew the cyclone was approaching.

But in spite of ample warning, they did not immediately flee to a concrete cyclone shelter, though one was only about a mile away. Only at the last minute did they leave their mud and thatch hut for the safety of a neighbor’s concrete house. That decision likely saved their lives: their home, chickens, tools and few belongings were washed away in the storm, though they managed to save their goat. The Gazis are just two of about 3 million people  affected by Aila when it destroyed homes and crops and flooded farmland.

Risk assessment studies conducted after Cyclone Aila were telling. They found that rural people like the Gazis who didn’t evacuate immediately thought cyclone shelters were too far away, too crowded or poorly maintained. Women were particularly vulnerable. They are often the last to leave home because they are in charge of the house and livestock — often a villager’s most precious asset.

Preparing for natural disasters is essential in low-lying Bangladesh. This river delta country has hundreds of rivers and sits on the edge of the Bay of Bengal, making it especially vulnerable to cyclones and floods, which happen nearly every year. This May, Cyclone Mahasen hit coastal areas with a glancing blow but left 17 dead and 1.2 million people with losses and damage. Cyclones can happen in the spring and fall, during two cyclone seasons that last several months. As the world’s most densely populated country with 152 million people packed into a space smaller than Iowa, natural disasters here can be  especially devastating.

So what can be done to help people weather cyclones in Bangladesh? The country has already had an effective warning system for more than four decades. But since 2004, Bangladesh’s government and international organizations have been strengthening disaster management programs to get more people to shelters and help them through the painful aftermath of cyclones.

Bangladesh’s cyclone warning system was born out of such a disaster. A deadly 1970 cyclone killed about 470,000 in Bangladesh, and spurred the creation of the country’s Cyclone Preparedness Program in 1972 that is today run by Bangladesh’s government and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

While Bangladesh’s program is a far cry from the $20 billion plan to fortify New York City against storms as announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in June, it has worked remarkably well in this predominantly poor country. In 2007 Cyclone Sidr struck Bangladesh and killed about 3,000 people. The storm was blunted by the Sundarbans, the huge mangrove forest in southwest Bangladesh, but Oxfam estimated the cyclone warning system helped saved 100,000 lives.

The program has 135 full-time employees so relies on a grassroots network of tens of thousands of volunteers. When I first visited the cyclone warning control room in Dhaka in 2007, it was low-key with just four desks, maps pinned to the wall, and some radio equipment in a corner. The office receives reports from Bangladesh‘s meterological department, tracks storms and transmits alerts to district offices via radio. In a impressive feat of coordination, volunteers on the ground trained in first aid and rescue techniques are equipped with megaphones, hand sirens, flashlights, flags and radios to send out cyclone warnings in villages.

On a visit this spring, the office appeared nearly the same, though now there is a flat screen TV on the wall and a new conference table. But it has grown in other ways. The number of volunteers is 49,000, up from 42,000 in 2007. More women have been recruited so they now account for about 30 percent of volunteers, and can help convince other women to evacuate earlier. Mosques have long been enlisted to blast alerts through megaphones normally used to sound the daily calls to prayer.

Trainings, mock drills, as well as social gatherings and theatrical performances throughout the year keep volunteers motivated. And there is something to be said of the official vests that volunteers proudly wear. “They need a lot of interaction,” said Ekram Chowdhury, director of operations for the Cyclone Preparedness Program in Dhaka. He admitted that younger volunteers are not as motivated as older ones who have vivid memories of destructive cyclones in 1970 and 1991. ‘’From this history and hurt, they started work without pay,’’ he explained.

Other disaster management programs are now focusing on building practical shelters and strengthening recovery after cyclones with support from Bangladesh’s government, European aid agencies and the United Nations Development Program.

To address the problem of poorly maintained, distant shelters that people like the Gazis are reluctant to use, new ones were built in central locations in villages. These multipurpose shelters do double duty as schools or community centers so they are maintained year-round by village committees instead of falling into disrepair. There are about 4,000 shelters and government offices that can be used as shelters, but about 1,500 more are needed in cyclone-prone areas of Bangladesh.

On a recent spring afternoon in Banishanta village, a 40-minute boat ride from the port city of Mongla, children laughed and called from the second floor of a large, two-story school. It is also a cyclone shelter whose empty concrete ground floor is for livestock brought along by evacuees. The second floor rests on tall, thick pillars and can hold thousands of people.

More latrines, especially for women, have been added to cyclone shelters. Kalada Islam, a young woman in her 20s, shyly admitted that lack of toilets was the ‘’biggest problem’’ during Cyclone Aila when she and her husband fled to an overcrowded shelter in Koyra.

To assuage people’s concerns about transporting important belongings in storms, watertight containers have been distributed to 12,000 families for storing documents, seeds or food that villagers can take with them when evacuating.

Most poor, rural people in cyclone-prone areas live in flimsy homes made of thatch or tin roofs, and mud walls and floors. Sturdier cyclone-proof homes are now being tested. Dozens of tidy one-room homes with concrete foundations and walls are being piloted in Bainpura, a remote village on the edge of the Sunderbans. The homes were designed by the Housing and Building Research Institute in Dhaka to withstand winds of 130 miles an hour. They have wavy ferrocement roofs instead of corrugated metal, which can blow away in strong winds and become hatchet-like projectiles. A small rooftop solar panel is detachable for safekeeping during storms.

The devastation continues after cyclones have passed. After big storms, sources of drinking water such as ponds are often contaminated by salt water and debris. Homeless evacuees resort to open defecation in close quarters, which can lead to water-borne diseases such as dysentery and typhoid.

After Cyclone Aila, the Bangladeshi non-governmental organization BRAC constructed 2,400 latrines on high ground and embankments in cyclone-afflicted areas and disseminated information on public health issues, including nutrition, water and sanitation, diarrhoea and skin rashes.

Tanks to store rainwater were also built and installed in villages. In Banishanta, one such rainwater harvesting system funded by international aid agencies sits next to the local mosque. Mohammed Showkat Osman, the imam at the mosque, says people bought jars of clean water or drank pond water before the rainwater system was built. BRAC has installed two desalinization plants in coastal areas that can supply clean water before and after natural disasters.

Even after a cyclone, the struggle for survival continues if livelihoods are wiped out.  Cyclone Aila created a tidal surge that flooded fertile land in Koyra with saltwater for two years and rendered it barren. More than four years after the storm, thousands still struggle to make a living.

Mohammed Musa, a 30-something resident of Koyra, was displaced from his home when his land was flooded after Aila. Miles of what was once lush land full of fruit trees is now a cracked moonscape. Unable to farm, Musa survived on sporadic fishing in the Sundarbans even though man-eating tigers roam the forest.

The NGO Relief International is helping the poorest cyclone victims find alternative ways to earn money, from grants of livestock like goats and chickens, to materials for building a simple shop, or providing training for fattening crabs or farming fish. Musa recently received a bicycle cart from Relief International and now earns as much as 150 taka (nearly $2) a day for transporting goods and people in the village, compared to 80 to 100 taka ($1 to $1.30) from fishing. Musa doesn’t risk going into the Sundarbans anymore.

Awareness and disaster preparedness is critical in poor countries that lack professional first responders. Bangladesh is subtly integrating education about both, along with the impact of climate change into school curricula for grades three through ten. Schools here practice safety programs and drills nationwide in March and October.

Even in this country of limited resources — and maybe for that very reason — preparing for natural disasters is top of the agenda in Bangladesh. “This country was raised on disaster,’’ said Puji Pujiono, program manager at UNDP. ‘’We have to make disaster everybody’s business.”

Philippines typhoon leaves 350 dead with 400 missing

New Haven Register
By The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, December 06, 2012

NEW BATAAN, Philippines — A powerful typhoon that washed away emergency shelters, a military camp and possibly entire families in the southern Philippines has killed almost 350 people with nearly 400 missing, authorities said Thursday.

More bodies were retrieved from hardest-hit Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces and six others impacted by Tuesday's storm, the Office of Civil Defense reported.  At least 200 of the victims died in Compostela Valley alone, including 78 villagers and soldiers who perished in a flash flood that swamped two emergency shelters and a military camp.

"Entire families may have been washed away," said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited New Bataan on Wednesday. The farming town of 45,000 people was a muddy wasteland of collapsed houses and coconut and banana trees felled by ferocious winds.

Bodies of victims were laid on the ground for viewing by people searching for missing relatives. Some were badly mangled after being dragged by raging floodwaters over rocks and other debris. A man sprayed insecticide on the remains to keep away swarms of flies.  A father wept when he found the body of his child after lifting a plastic cover. A mother, meanwhile, went away in tears, unable to find her missing children. "I have three children," she said repeatedly, flashing three fingers before a TV cameraman.  Two men carried the mud-caked body of an unidentified girl that was covered with coconut leaves on a makeshift stretcher made from a blanket and wooden poles.

Dionisia Requinto, 43, felt lucky to have survived with her husband and their eight children after swirling flood waters surrounded their home. She said they escaped and made their way up a hill to safety, bracing themselves against boulders and fallen trees as they climbed.

"The water rose so fast," she told The Associated Press. "It was horrible. I thought it was going to be our end."

In nearby Davao Oriental, the coastal province first struck by Typhoon Bopha as it blew from the Pacific Ocean, at least 115 people perished, mostly in three towns so battered that it was hard to find any buildings with roofs remaining, provincial officer Freddie Bendulo and other officials said.

"We had a problem where to take the evacuees. All the evacuation centers have lost their roofs," Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon said.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued an urgent appeal for $4.8 million to help people directly affected by the typhoon.  The sun shined brightly for most of the day Wednesday, prompting residents to lay their soaked clothes, books and other belongings out on roadsides to dry and revealing the extent of the damage to farmland. Thousands of banana trees in one Compostela Valley plantation were toppled by the wind, the young bananas still wrapped in blue plastic covers.

But as night fell, however, rain started pouring again over New Bataan, triggering panic among some residents who feared a repeat of the previous day's flash floods. Some carried whatever belongings they could as they hurried to nearby towns or higher ground.  After slamming into Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, Bopha roared quickly across the southern Mindanao and central regions, knocking out power in two entire provinces, triggering landslides and leaving houses and plantations damaged. More than 170,000 fled to evacuation centers.

On Thursday, the typhoon was over the South China Sea west of Palawan province. It was blowing northwestward and could be headed to Vietnam or southern China, according to government forecasters.  The deaths came despite efforts by President Benigno Aquino III's government to force residents out of high-risk communities as the typhoon approached.

Some 20 typhoons and storms lash the northern and central Philippines each year, but they rarely hit the vast southern Mindanao region where sprawling export banana plantations have been planted over the decades because it seldom experiences strong winds that could blow down the trees.  A rare storm in the south last December killed more than 1,200 people and left many more homeless.

The United States extended its condolences and offered to help its Asian ally deal with the typhoon's devastation. It praised government efforts to minimize the deaths and damage.

Philippines braces for typhoon, evacuation ordered
25 May 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine officials began evacuating thousands of residents in areas prone to floods and landslides Wednesday as Typhoon Songda roared toward the country's northeast.

Government weather bureau chief Graciano Yumul said the typhoon is likely to make landfall Friday afternoon over Aurora and Isabela provinces. It has already brought heavy rains to the Philippine archipelago's eastern seaboard.

Yumul said the typhoon was packing winds of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour and gusts of 100 mph (160 kph).

The storm was about 190 miles (310 kilometers) east of Northern Samar province late Wednesday.

The typhoon is also expected to pass near Albay province on its way to the northeast. Gov. Joey Salceda has ordered some 250,000 residents there evacuated from coastal areas, flood- and landslide-prone villages, and areas that would be in the path of debris from the Mayon volcano. He has offered 11 pounds (five kilograms) of rice as an incentive for each family that evacuates.

In other provinces in the path of the typhoon, officials have collected rubber boats and food supplies and put rescuers on standby.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda appealed to people living near the typhoon's path to monitor news and to heed officials' calls for evacuation if necessary.

"Local government officials have enough time to prepare, so we hope we have a zero casualty," he added.

Several domestic flights were canceled or diverted because of stormy weather. Nearly 4,000 people are stranded in ports after the coast guard barred sea travel in areas with typhoon warnings.

The capital Manila and the country's western seaboard also experienced heavy downpour on Wednesday, but Yumul said that was unrelated to the typhoon.

Powerful cyclone strikes Australia's northeast
2 Feb. 2011

CAIRNS, Australia – The destructive core of a massive cyclone battered Australia's northeastern coast early Thursday, wrenching roofs off buildings and cutting power to tens of thousands of homes.

Australian officials have warned that Cyclone Yasi was expected to cause substantial damage and probably some deaths, though they would have little idea of the scale of the disaster until the worst had passed. The storm was packing winds up to 186 mph (300 kph) and will take several hours to blow through any given area.

The storm will compound misery in Queensland, which has already been hit by months of flooding that killed 35 people and inundated hundreds of communities. Yasi hit north of the main waterlogged area, but emergency services across the state are already stretched.

The Bureau of Meteorology said in a statement that the storm's "large and destructive core" has started crossing the coast near the small town of Mission Beach in northern Queensland state.

Dozens of other cities and towns were being whipped by winds that forecaster said could gust up to 186 mph (300 kph).

Witnesses reported seeing roofs ripped off buildings and trees flattened, and officials said power had been cut to at least 90,000 homes.

Australia braces for cyclones
By MarketWatch
Jan. 30, 2011, 3:09 p.m. EST

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — A tropical cyclone threatened to hit northeastern Australia late Sunday, triggering a new crisis in a region that has been reeling from months of heavy rains and massive flooding.

Cyclone Anthony was expected to hit communities in northern Queensland as it intensified to category 2, with winds of up to 130 kilometers per hour, The Australian newspaper reported on its website.

The cyclone was later downgraded to a low pressure system, but its winds continued to hit the northern part of the state, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Web site.

Meanwhile, another cyclone, named Bianca, weakened as it hit Perth in southwestern Australia Sunday night, the Australian reported.

Southern China braces for deadly typhoon
By MIN LEE, Associated Press Writer
20 Oct. 2010

HONG KONG – Residents scrambled to stockpile food and authorities ordered ships to remain docked as southern China geared up Wednesday for a typhoon that killed 20 people and wiped out crops in the northern Philippines.

Typhoon Megi packed winds of 140 miles per hour (225 kilometers per hour) when it struck the Philippines on Monday. Philippine officials reported 20 deaths, including several people who drowned after being pinned by fallen trees. The storm damaged thousands of homes and flooded vast areas of rice and corn fields.

Late Wednesday, Megi was about 350 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of the southern financial hub of Hong Kong and expected to eventually hit the southern Chinese coast, the Hong Kong Observatory said on its website.

The storm's winds have weakened to 110 mph (175 kph), but are expected to build strength over the next two days before losing steam again Saturday, when the typhoon is projected to make landfall in China's Guangdong province, the observatory said.

In Guangdong, officials have ordered all fishing boats back to shore, put the provincial flood control headquarters on alert and warned that reservoirs should be watched, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. In the southern island province of Hainan, residents rushed to supermarkets to stock up on food, vegetables and bottled water, Xinhua said.

In Hong Kong, the mood was calmer in the densely populated city of 7 million whose infrastructure has traditionally held up well against the annual summer barrage of typhoons. Still, the Hong Kong Observatory urged residents to make sure their windows could be properly bolted, avoid the coastline and refrain from water sports. It also ordered small vessels to return to shore.

In the Philippines, more than 215,000 people were affected by the typhoon, including 10,300 people who fled to evacuation centers, officials said. About $30 million (1.3 billion pesos) worth of infrastructure and crops were damaged and nearly 5,000 houses were damaged or destroyed by Megi's ferocious wind, according to the government's main disaster-response agency.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, where recent flooding has killed at least 45 people, soldiers and police found a bus that was carrying dozens of people when it was washed away by flood waters, disaster officials said Wednesday. Twenty people aboard the bus when the washout happened were still missing, and officials did not say how many bodies they found.

Up to 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) of rain pounded the region in the past week, submerging more than 220,000 houses and forcing more than 173,000 people to flee their homes, according to the national flood and storm control committee.

Super typhoon lashes Philippines, knocks out power
By BULLIT MARQUEZ, Associated Press Writer
18 October 2010

CAUAYAN, Philippines – The strongest cyclone in years to buffet the Philippines knocked out communications and power as residents took shelter Monday, while flooding in Vietnam swept away a bus and 20 of its passengers, including a boy taken from his mother's grasp by the raging waters.  Super Typhoon Megi, crossing the northern Philippines, was expected to add to the already heavy rains that have fallen on much of Asia. In China, authorities evacuated 140,000 people from a coastal province ahead of the typhoon.

Megi could later hit Vietnam, where flooding has caused 30 deaths in recent days, in addition to those missing and feared dead after a bus was snatched off a road by surging currents Monday.

Megi packed sustained winds of 140 miles (225 kilometers) per hour and gusts of 162 mph (260 kph) as it made landfall midday Monday at Palanan Bay in Isabela province, felling trees and utility poles and cutting off power, phone and Internet services in many areas. It appeared to be weakening while crossing the mountains of the Philippines' main northern island of Luzon.  With more than 3,600 Filipinos riding out the typhoon in sturdy school buildings, town halls, churches and relatives' homes, roads in and out of coastal Isabela province, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of Manila, were deserted and blocked by collapsed trees and power lines.

One man who had just rescued his water buffalo slipped and fell into a river and probably drowned, said Bonifacio Cuarteros, an official with the Cagayan provincial disaster agency.

As it crashed ashore, the typhoon whipped up huge waves. There was zero visibility and radio reports said the wind was so powerful that people could not take more than a step at a time. Ships and fishing vessels were told to stay in ports, and several domestic and international flights were canceled.  Thousands of military reserve officers and volunteers were on standby, along with helicopters, including six Chinooks that were committed by U.S. troops holding war exercises with Filipino soldiers near Manila, said Benito Ramos, a top disaster-response official.

"This is like preparing for war," Ramos, a retired army general, told The Associated Press. "We know the past lessons, and we're aiming for zero casualties."

In July, an angry President Benigno Aquino III fired the head of the weather bureau for failing to predict that a typhoon would hit Manila. That storm killed more than 100 people in Manila and outlying provinces.  This time, authorities sounded the alarm early and ordered evacuations and the positioning of emergency relief and food supplies days before the typhoon hit. The capital was expected to avoid any direct hit, though schools were closed.

Megi was the most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines in four years, government forecasters say. A 2006 howler with 155-mph (250-kph) winds set off mudslides that buried entire villages, killing about 1,000 people.  In central Vietnam, officials said 20 people on a bus were swept away Monday by strong currents from a river flooded by recent rains unrelated to Megi, while another 18 survived by swimming or clinging to trees or power poles.  One survivor treaded water for 3 1/2 hours as the current pushed her downstream and she was forced to let go of her 15-year-old son due to exhaustion. The boy is among the missing.

Officials said 30 other people died in central Vietnam from flooding over the weekend, and five remain missing.  Megi could add to the misery.

"People are exhausted," Vietnamese disaster official Nguyen Ngoc Giai said by telephone from Quang Binh province. "Many people have not even returned to their flooded homes from previous flooding, while many others who returned home several days ago were forced to be evacuated again."

China's National Meteorological Center said Megi was expected to enter the South China Sea on Tuesday, threatening southeastern coastal provinces. The center issued its second-highest alert for potential "wild winds and huge waves," warning vessels to take shelter and urging authorities to brace for emergencies.  Floods triggered by heavy rains forced nearly 140,000 people to evacuate from homes in the southern island province of Hainan, where heavy rains left thousands homeless over the weekend, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Thailand also reported flooding that submerged thousands of homes and vehicles and halted train service. No casualties were reported, and nearly 100 elephants were evacuated from a popular tourist attraction north of the capital.

Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 14:11 UK

Philippine flood death toll rises
The Philippines government says 246 people are now known to have died in severe flooding caused when Tropical Storm Ketsana struck on Saturday.

The country has appealed for foreign aid to deal with the disaster, which has displaced 450,000 people and left 380,000 living in makeshift shelters.

Public buildings including schools, universities and the presidential palace have become relief centres.

The storm has now hit Vietnam, where at least 22 people are said to have died.

People reach out for emergency supplies in Cainta (28 September 2009)


The Vietnamese government earlier ordered the evacuation of more than 170,000 people as strong winds of up to 150km/h (93mph) and heavy rain began to affect the central coast.

Local media report that Ketsana, which has now strengthened into a typhoon, has caused flooding and power cuts. Vietnam Airlines has suspended all flights to the coastal cities of Danang and Hue.

Weather forecasters are predicting more heavy rain later this week, with a new storm forming in the Pacific likely to enter Philippine waters on Thursday, making landfall on the island of Luzon.

Map showing the path of typhoon Ketsana

Fragile situation

"Evacuees will be given shelter in available areas among the Malacanang [palace] buildings and in tents that will be put up in between the buildings," Philippines President Arroyo said in a statement announcing the opening of the palace compound.

She said that if required, palace employees would "yield their work stations to provide more space for our displaced countrymen", and that she had temporarily moved her office to another section of the compound along the Pasig river.

After word of the offer spread, hundreds of people converged on the palace and received plastic bags filled with noodles and canned sardines.

"We just heard it in the news that they are giving relief goods at the palace so we walked for one hour," street sweeper Rosette Serrano, 31, told the AFP news agency.

Ms Serrano lost everything except her clothes when her house was submerged on Saturday.

But officials said people would not be permitted to remain inside the presidential compound unless they were first checked by aid organisations.

"We cannot just allow every evacuee in because of logistical and security problems," Wilfredo Oca, an aid to Mrs Arroyo, told AFP.

The sharp rise in the death toll - up 100 from the previous figure - came after more than 90 deaths were recorded in Manila, the National Disaster Co-ordinating Council said in a statement.

The toll is expected to rise further as thick mud is cleared from the worst affected parts of the city. Troops, police and volunteers have so far rescued more than 12,000 people.


Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the situation could become worse if aid supplies ran out.

Prime Minister of Taiwan Quits Over Typhoon Response
September 8, 2009

BEIJING — The prime minister of Taiwan resigned Monday because of the government’s widely criticized response to a deadly typhoon and said that his successor would replace the entire cabinet this week.

The announcement at a news conference by Liu Chao-shiuan, the prime minister, came as a surprise, even though the government had come under intense pressure for what many Taiwanese called its inept handling of Typhoon Morakot. The storm slammed into Taiwan in early August and left at least 700 people dead or missing after three days of heavy rain set off huge mudslides. Mr. Liu’s resignation is the most serious political fallout yet from the typhoon.

Popular support for President Ma Ying-jeou, who was elected by a wide margin in the spring of 2008 on a platform of rejuvenating the economy and improving ties with mainland China, has plummeted in the aftermath of the disaster. Mr. Ma reluctantly allowed the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetans who is accused of being a separatist by mainland China, to visit Taiwan last week to give succor to typhoon victims. Some analysts said it was a sign of Mr. Ma’s desperation.

Mr. Ma, who has the power to appoint the prime minister, chose Wu Den-yih as the replacement for Mr. Liu. Since 2007, Mr. Wu has been general secretary of the Kuomintang, the party to which Mr. Ma belongs and that ruled Taiwan for decades after retreating here in 1949 after its loss to the Communists in the Chinese civil war. Mr. Wu was appointed as mayor of Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan, from 1990 to 1994, and he served as mayor again for four more years after being elected.

At the news conference on Monday, Mr. Liu said he had first offered Mr. Ma his resignation in mid-August. Mr. Ma had asked him to stay, he said, but Mr. Liu had “firmly made up my mind.” The two men had a conversation on Sunday night at the house of Mr. Liu’s mother, Mr. Liu said.

“I believe because so many people died, someone must take responsibility,” he said.

The prime minister appoints the entire cabinet, which has eight ministries established under the Constitution and many newer commissions. The current cabinet will resign together on Thursday, Mr. Liu said.

Critics of the government say President Ma and other leaders should have evacuated residents in vulnerable areas before the typhoon hit and accepted foreign aid earlier, among other things. Mr. Ma had said he might reshuffle some members of his cabinet, but there had been no hint that the prime minister and entire cabinet would resign.

Bruce Jacobs, a scholar of Taiwan at Monash University in Australia, said he was surprised to hear of the change, but that Mr. Liu deserved to be held accountable for the “disastrous” government response to Typhoon Morakot.

“I think generally people will be pleased because there’s a change, but whether they’ll be pleased with Wu Den-yih, I don’t know,” Mr. Jacobs said.

He added that Mr. Wu was a somewhat disappointing choice because he is not known as someone who presses anticorruption efforts within the Kuomintang, which has conservative factions that critics accuse of being corrupt and anti-democratic. But a reform-minded party member, Eric Chu, has been appointed the vice prime minister, Mr. Jacobs said.

Mr. Wu is a native Taiwanese and speaks the Taiwanese dialect fluently, which could give him an advantage over Mr. Liu in trying to quell anger in the aftermath of the typhoon. Some of the worst hit areas were in southern Taiwan, dominated by native Taiwanese, who lived on the island well before the Chinese fleeing the civil war settled there.

China evacuation as typhoon hits
Page last updated at
01:39 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 02:39 UK

Nearly one-million people have been evacuated from the coastal regions of China which are being battered by Typhoon Morakot.

Winds of up 119km/h (74mph) destroyed houses and flooded farmland.  Flights were cancelled and fishing boats recalled to shore. A small boy died when a building collapsed.

Meanwhile, in Japan nine people are reported dead in floods and landslides after Typhoon Etau brought heavy rain to the west of the country.  Eight people died in Hyogo prefecture, including one man whose car was swept away by a swollen river, and another died in neighbouring Okayama prefecture.

Another 10 people are missing.

'Treetops visible'

Chinese state media said that the sky turned completely dark in Beibi, Fujian, when Typhoon Morakot made landfall on Sunday morning.  Some 473,000 residents of Zhejiang province were evacuated before the typhoon struck, as well as 480,000 from Fujian, Xinhua news agency said.  In Zhejiang's Wenzhou City a four year-old child was killed when a house collapsed. Dozens of roads were said to be flooded and the city's airport was closed.

Rescuers used dinghies to reach worst-hit areas; in one area only the tops of trees were said to be showing above the floodwater.

Taiwan devastation

Earlier, Morakot dumped 250cm of rain on Taiwan as it crossed the island, washing away bridges and roads.  At least three people died in some of the worst flooding for 50 years.  In one incident, an entire hotel - empty at the time - was swept away by the waters.  At least three people were known to have died - a woman whose car went into a ditch and two men who drowned.

Thirty-one others were reported missing, Taiwan's Disaster Relief Centre said. Among them were a group reportedly washed away from a make-shift shelter in Kaohsiung in the south.

At least 10,000 people were trapped in three coastal towns, a local official in the southern county of Pingtung said.  In Chihpen, one of Taiwan's most famous hot spring resorts, a hotel collapsed after flood waters undermined its foundations.

Morakot - which means emerald in Thai - has also contributed to heavy rains in the Philippines. At least 10 people were killed in flooding and landslides in the north.

Typhoons are frequent in the region between July and September.

9 Killed as Typhoon Etau Hits Western Japan
August 9, 2009Filed at 9:22 p.m. ET

TOKYO (AP) -- At least nine people were killed Monday in western Japan in floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain as Typhoon Etau slammed into the country.

The typhoon left eight people dead in Hyogo prefecture, police official Shigekazu Kamenobu said. He could not provide details but said many were caught in raging waters.

''At least one man was swept away in a river while he was in a car. His body was later found inside the vehicle,'' Kamenobu said.

A woman was found dead in her house that was destroyed by a landslide in neighboring Okayama prefecture, police official Wataru Yamamoto said.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that 10 people were missing in western Japan. Police were not able to confirm how many people were unaccounted for.

Japan's Meteorological Agency also warned of heavy precipitation and landslides in eastern Japan as Etau moves inland.

A Million in China Evacuate Ahead of Typhoon
August 10, 2009

BEIJING — Saying they were taking no chances, Chinese officials evacuated a million coastal residents on Sunday as a weakened Typhoon Morakot swept onto the mainland south of Shanghai after battering Taiwan the day before.

A 4-year-old child was reported dead after the storm hit Wenzhou, a manufacturing city in Zhejiang province on the east coast, on Sunday afternoon. The child was among five people buried when the winds collapsed five adjacent houses in the city of nearly 1.4 million.

Wenzhou officials said the storm had destroyed more than 300 homes. Authorities said that the storm was whipping up waves as high at 26 feet in the east China Sea and in the strait between Taiwan and mainland China.

As it hit the Chinese mainland, the typhoon carried winds of up to 111 miles per hour, China’s state-run Xinhua news service said, but meteorologists reported later that it had degraded close to tropical storm status, with 74 miles per hour winds.

The typhoon, the eighth of the season, came ashore at 4:20 p.m. China time at Xiapu County, in north Fujian Province. Xinhua said that more than 490,000 people had been moved to safety in Fujian, and 48,000 boats summoned back to harbor.

In Zhejiang Province, between Fujian and Shanghai, another 505,000 people were evacuated and 35,000 boats called in.

Both provinces are manufacturing centers with large populations living in oceanside port cities. Just north of the typhoon’s landfall, Shanghai was spared the worst winds but nevertheless canceled airline flights and lowered river reservoirs to prepare for flooding.

Xinhua said that relief teams were distributing food and water to rural villagers who had been stranded by high waters.

Earlier, Taiwan’s Disaster Relief Center told The Associated Press that three people were killed and 31 were missing and feared dead after the storm swamped the island throughout Saturday with high winds and more than 80 inches of rain in some areas. Sixteen of the missing were from one family that had lived in a makeshift house in Kaohsiung, in the island’s south, that was swept away by the waters.

In southeastern Taiwain’s Taitung County, a six-story hotel collapsed into a neighboring river after torrential rains eroded its foundation, but officials said all 300 guests had been safely evacuated.

Authorities said the Taiwan flooding was the worst in a half-century. More than 170,000 persons remained without power on Monday the government said.

Morakot, which means emerald in Thai, had struck the Philippines earlier, killing 21, including one French and two Belgian tourist, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council there. Seven others were reported missing.

The government reported that more than 83,000 Philippines residents were affected by floodwaters and landslides, and 22,000 had been evacuated.

In the South China Sea, Xinhua reported that three fishermen were dead and at least 26 mariners were reported missing in the wake of tropical storm Goni, which had struck China’s southern Guangdong Province on Tuesday and left Hainan Province on Sunday.

FLOOD  - U.S.A., Europe, Australia, Asia

Facebook lauched this data link
Woman walks with umbrella in heavy rain.  German flood in June 2013 (r).

Real-time flood map goes online in UK

Persistent heavy rain has brought flooding around the UK
6 July 2012

A live flood warning system has gone online as the UK experiences unseasonable amounts of heavy rain.

The system aims to allow people to track areas that are in danger of imminent flooding.

The FloodAlerts map offers people real-time updates on areas at risk in England and Wales.

The system, developed by Shrewsbury-based firm Shoothill, uses data from the Environment Agency's nationwide network of monitoring stations.

Crazy rain

Users can zoom in on any point of a map of England and Wales to see flood alert and flood warning statuses, as issued by the EA within the previous 15 minutes.

Custom searches can also be carried out by postcode.

Shoothill managing director Rod Plummer said: "We are expecting a crazy amount of rain today and in the coming days and the evidence of similar incidences in previous weeks tells us that floods are hitting places that haven't seen such a thing for decades, sometimes with devastating and even tragic consequences.

"Lots of people have reason to be concerned, given the weather forecasts. Those alerts could be to monitor the area around their homes, or perhaps their routes to and from work or their children's schools.

"The same is true for businesses, perhaps especially those who need to keep fleets of vehicles moving as conditions get tough or need to keep a close eye on critical infrastructure."

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: "Being prepared is vital to help reduce the risk of flooding. With more than five million people living or working in areas at risk from flooding across England and Wales, we are urging communities to use the new application, alongside our existing Floodline Hotline and website updates, to keep one step ahead of future floods."

The system was originally launched on Facebook in April, and has had nearly 2,000 likes. Some 40% who visit the site have gone on to register, according to the Environment Agency.

The standalone web map clocked up 100,000 hits in its first four hours.

21 June 2013 Last updated at 23:20 ET

At least three people have been killed and more than a 100,000 forced to flee their homes as floods triggered by torrential rain hit western Canada.  Officials have ordered the evacuation of the centre of Calgary, Alberta, after both rivers that flow through it, the Bow and Elbow, overflowed.  The floods have washed away roads and bridges, cut-off electricity and submerged hundreds of homes.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured flood-damaged areas on Friday.  He has promised federal assistance for those affected.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt Patricia Neely confirmed that three people were dead and two bodies had been recovered...Alberta Premier Alison Redford warned residents should be prepared for more flooding downstream.  Communities further south were under total evacuation orders. Roughly half the homes in High River were flooded.

Swept away

While an estimated 230,000 people live and work in central Calgary, officials believed there would be few people to evacuate because many did not come to work on Friday.  Some 25 neighbourhoods in Calgary, a city of one million, had already been evacuated. An estimated 75,000 residents have been ordered out of their homes.  The floods come after a rainy week in Alberta, capped by 4in (10cm) of downpour on Thursday.

Military helicopters rescued about 30 people off rooftops in the Calgary area. At least 350 soldiers are being dispatched to the flood zone, according to the defence minister's office.  The mountain resorts of Banff and Canmore were left isolated after the Trans-Canada Highway was closed.  One resident of Canmore said he awoke in the middle of the night to a "kind of rumbling" sound and realised it was the nearby creek.

"At first it was just intense, pretty powerful, amazing thing to watch," Wade Graham told the Associated Press.

Canmore resident Sarah Pearson describes escaping across a bridge on a school bus

"As daylight came, it just got bigger and bigger and wider and wider, and it's still getting bigger and bigger and wider and wider."

"I watched a refrigerator go by. I watched a shed go by. I watched couches go by. It's insane," he added.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said about 1,500 people went to emergency shelters while the rest were staying with family or friends.  Daniel Kilgallon, who is staying with his relatives after evacuating his flat, told the BBC: "The city has stopped functioning. Nobody can remember a flood like this ever happening here."

'An ocean'

Mr Nenshi warned that although the Elbow had crested, the city was not yet out of danger.

The Bow river, which Mr Nenshi said looked like "an ocean at the moment", is expected to remain at its current level for the next 12 hours.  Police have advised people against travelling to the city centre. Public transit there has been shut and schools are closed.  Officials said lions and tigers from the Calgary Zoo may need to be transferred to prisoner holding cells. Two zebras and two pigs have already been moved to a conservation centre.

The Saddledome, home to Calgary's professional hockey team, is also flooded with water levels rising to the stadium's 10th row.  Calgary resident Marshall Strong told the BBC several of his family members' homes were flooded.

"One farm that we went to had 60 cattle drowned in the fields," he said.

"It is truly unbelievable what has happened in such a short time. Calgary is a strong city and we have held it together better then we imagined."

8 dead by 3-24-14 as search continues, digging out.  More graphics.
From the Facebook page of Everett Herald, aerial photo above. Graphic from the New York Times

Scientist warned in ’99 of deadly mudslide

By Associated Press
March 25, 2014 | 10:22pm

ARLINGTON, Wash. — A scientist working for the government had warned 15 years ago about the potential for a catastrophic landslide in the fishing village where the weekend collapse of a rain-soaked hillside killed at least 16 people and left scores missing.

As rescue workers slogged through the muck and rain in search of victims Tuesday, word of the 1999 report raised questions about why residents were allowed to build homes on the hill and whether officials had taken proper precautions.

“I knew it would fail catastrophically in a large-magnitude event,” said Daniel Miller, a geomorphologist who was hired by the Army Corps of Engineers to do the study. “I was not surprised.”

Patricia Graesser, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps in Seattle, said it appears that the report was intended not as a risk assessment, but as a feasibility study for ecosystem restoration.  Asked whether the agency should have done anything with the information, she said, “We don’t have jurisdiction to do anything. We don’t do zoning. That’s a local responsibility.”

Snohomish County officials and authorities in the devastated village of Oso said that they were not aware of the study but that residents and town officials knew the risks of living in the area.  In fact, the area has long been known as the “Hazel Landslide” because of landslides over the past half-century. The last severe one before Saturday’s disaster was in 2006.

Searchers continued to pick through the debris Tuesday. Authorities were working off a list of 176 people unaccounted for, though some names were believed to be duplicates.  Volunteers from a logging crew gathered to help move debris with chainsaws, excavators and other heavy equipment.  Gene Karger said he could see six orange flags in the debris field, marking bodies they would be pulling out. Karger, a logger most of his life, said it was the first time he was involved in this kind of rescue work.

“You see parts of their bodies sticking out of the mud. It’s real hard. It’s that bad,” Karger said. “There are people out there we know.”

One of the report’s authors, Jonathan Godt, said landslides don’t get that much attention because they often happen in places where they don’t hit anything.

But with Americans building homes deeper into the wilderness, he said, “There are more people in the way.”

3 Dead and at Least 18 Missing After Washington Mudslide
MARCH 23, 2014

At least 18 people were missing on Sunday after a huge mudslide in Washington State killed three people a day earlier, the Snohomish County sheriff’s office said.

Emergency crews in helicopters were searching the area for survivors of the slide, which was reported around 10:45 a.m. on Saturday along a highway between Arlington and Darrington, about 50 miles north of Seattle. Officials said the cause was believed to be groundwater saturation from heavy rainfall in the area.

Eight people, including a 6-month-old baby, were rescued on Saturday by emergency crews, who took them to hospitals, the sheriff’s office said. The baby and an 81-year-old man were in critical condition on Sunday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the hospital said.

Six houses were destroyed in the mudslide, and other structures were most likely damaged, as well.

Rescuers could hear people crying for help amid the rubble on Saturday but were unable to reach them, said Shari Ireton, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. The ground around the mudslide site is the consistency of quicksand, making conditions Sunday “extremely hazardous,” she added. Rescuers were trying to do as much as they could from the air.

Gov. Jay Inslee flew over the area on Sunday and planned to meet with families forced into shelters by the slide. About 27 people stayed overnight on Saturday at a middle school in Arlington.

“We hope for the best for those injured and the many families displaced by the mudslide,” Mr. Inslee said in a statement.

Mudslide witness: ‘Everything was gone in 3 seconds
Everett Herald
By Chris Winters
Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014, 9:57 p.m.

OSO — Paulo Falcao de Oliveira was driving his SUV up Highway 530 on his way to Darrington when he saw the mudslide hit.Suddenly mud, rocks, trees and other debris swallowed the road and the vehicles in front of him

.“I was three cars back, and I saw a truck with a boat,” said the Lynnwood man, who was heading to Darrington to pick up his children. “After that, I just saw the darkness coming across the road. Everything was gone in three seconds.

”De Oliveira had only a few seconds to brake to avoid the slide. He jumped out of his car. He felt he had to do something to help, so when police arrived he tried to move some debris.“We heard a woman and a baby screaming” in the rubble, he said.De Oliveira saw emergency crews pull a baby from the mud and debris. Police say a 6-month-old was flown to Harborview Medical Center, where the child was listed in critical condition.De Oliveira had been running late, and was stuck behind a slow driving vehicle

“I had a car that was driving in front of me that was going so slow,” he said. Had he been a few seconds faster, that would have been him in the slide. “I feel lucky,” he said.

When the slide washed down the hill, Marla Skaglund was at home on Skaglund Hill east of Oso.Her family has long lived on the hill. She didn’t see the slide, but she heard a loud noise, and then the power went out. She went outside and saw that her aunt and uncle’s house was gone. They died years ago, so the house was empty

“It made a big noise. At first I thought it was the wind,” she said. “Ruth and Bill’s house across the road, it was a mess.

”In Oso, resident Nancy Snyder, who lives on the river with her dog, Henry, was talking on the phone when the line went dead, she said. A firefighter later knocked on the door and encouraged her to leave until the area was safe

.“I threw my shoes on and grabbed my dog and took off,” she said.Snyder, Skaglund and other residents gathered at the Oso fire station, where they were given food and water. Many displaced residents later went to Post Middle School, where the Red Cross opened an emergency shelter.Later in the afternoon while search and rescue operations were still under way, officials began to warn businesses downstream of the flood danger. Several businesses were forced to close early, including Patty’s Eggnest, a Subway shop, and the AM/PM convenience store and service station in the Island Crossing neighborhood.

At about 5:10 p.m., Marc Zajac, the cashier at the AM/PM, was turning customers away, warning them the gas pumps were being shut off.“The fire department just came and said to get the heck out of here,” Zajac said, shooing people away from the pumps.Inside, the station’s owner flipped on the “closed” sign.

Rain Returns to Flooded Colorado, Frustrating Efforts to Rescue Stranded
September 15, 2013

DENVER — Efforts to reach hundreds of people still stranded in the flooded mountains of Colorado ran headlong into another day of pelting rain on Sunday, the authorities said.

After a week of record-breaking rains, Sunday’s storms were the last thing anyone wanted. They dumped more water into gorged streams, flooded sodden fields and prevented rescue helicopters from reaching residents who are stuck behind shredded roads and walls of debris.

“The good news is we’ve got 16 helicopters,” said John Schulz, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office in hard-hit Larimer County, about 60 miles north of Denver. “The bad news is they can’t go anywhere.”

The storms have left six people dead or presumed dead, the most recent reported fatality being an 80-year-old woman who was apparently washed away with her home. More than 800 people are now listed as “unaccounted for” in Larimer and Boulder Counties, the authorities said. Officials said they hoped most of those people had simply been unable to reach friends and family members.

“It’s not people who are necessarily missing or in danger,” Mr. Schulz said. “Some of those people may end up missing or dead, but in most cases, it’s going to be that they just lost contact, or they’ve been evacuated and we just haven’t caught up with them yet.”

Just keeping track of who is out of reach and who is safe has been difficult, the authorities said. Officials in the two flood-ravaged counties have been adding and subtracting names as they get new information from relatives or rescuers. But they said communication was still spotty.

A break in the relentless rains had brought dramatic scenes of rescue and reunion on Friday and Saturday, as big-bellied Chinook helicopters buzzed over the flooded roadways to airlift hundreds of residents from campgrounds, homes and destroyed mountain hamlets. One mission rescued 85 children and 14 adults who had been trapped while attending an outdoor education camp near the mountain community of Jamestown.

Mr. Schulz said phone service was slowly returning to stricken towns like Estes Park, a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, whose downtown was submerged in churning brown waters. He said he hoped that the list of unreachable residents would dwindle as people got in touch with their relatives or found one another in shelters.

In an appearance on “State of the Union” on CNN on Sunday, Gov. John W. Hickenlooper said: “There are many, many homes that have been destroyed. A number have been collapsed, and we haven’t been in them yet. So we’re still dealing with that. How do we save lives first?”

Colorado Towns Are Left Stranded in Deadly Floods
September 12, 2013

BOULDER, Colo. — Walls of water cascading down hillsides caused flash floods across Colorado on Thursday, killing at least three people. The flooding cut off major highways, isolated mountain towns and closed the main campus of the University of Colorado, the authorities said.

“This is not your ordinary disaster,” said Joe Pelle, the sheriff of Boulder County, where two of the deaths were reported, when he was asked about rescue efforts. “All the preparation in the world, all the want-to in the world, can’t put people up those canyons while debris and walls of water are coming down.”

As heavy rain continued falling late Thursday, homes, bridges and small dams built along the mountains that bisect the state collapsed, succumbing to rushing floodwaters and record levels of rainfall. Mudslides swept down hillsides left treeless by recent wildfires. Firefighters made dozens of rescues as cars were overtaken by rain-swollen creeks and roads suddenly gave way.

One volunteer fire crew was stranded on a mountainside after a wave of rainwater abruptly washed out a road, the authorities said.

Much of the worst of the flooding Thursday appeared to be in Boulder, where the university canceled classes Thursday and Friday and some 500 students and staff members were ordered evacuated. Dozens of buildings have been damaged, the university said, including the school’s theater and the Norlin Library.

A message posted on the university’s Web site Thursday announced: “Wall of water coming down Boulder Canyon. STAY AWAY FROM BOULDER CREEK.”

But the warning did not dissuade some people from flocking there. They stood on bridges marveling at the torrent of fast-moving brown water as it swept away anything in its path.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ryan Corbett, 24, a student who was among the onlookers. “I’ve lived here for seven years. This is unreal.”

A few miles north, a 50-yard wide portion of Route 36 was submerged as a stream bed overflowed and coursed by at 1,000 cubic feet per second, said Anne Reid, a firefighter with the Lefthand Fire Protection District.

“This is usually just a little stream that you wouldn’t even think to fish in,” Ms. Reid said.

The flooded highway has cut off residential areas for the foreseeable future, sweeping up whole willow and cottonwood trees as if they were twigs. John and Billie Brumder, who live across from the Crestview Estates neighborhood, said they were awakened at about 1:30 a.m. Thursday by the frightening sound of large rocks being dragged along the creek bed.

“When I heard that, I knew it was a big deal,” he said. “I knew we had to get out of there.”

Their car, which was already partly submerged, stalled, Mr. Brumder said, but they were able to escape in their pickup truck.

The authorities said Thursday afternoon that they expected the death toll in the state, currently at three, to rise.

One person drowned and a second person was killed when a structure collapsed in the town of Jamestown, northwest of Boulder. The third victim was found in Colorado Springs by police officers conducting flood patrols.

Rain had been falling in the Boulder area since Monday, but picked up significantly on Wednesday evening, causing mudslides in Colorado’s Front Range, where since 2010 wildfires have denuded some areas of trees and brush that would have normally helped soak up the moisture.

Dozens of streams and creeks overflowed, and downstream, portions of Colorado Springs and Denver flooded, as well as large parts of Boulder. The National Weather Service reported that more than 6 inches of rain had fallen in a 12-hour period. Forecasters predicted that the rain would continue into Friday.

According to provisional data from the United States Geological Survey, parts of Boulder Creek reached flood levels that have a 1 in 100 chance of occurring in any given year — what some refer to as a 100-year flood.

Sylvia Tawse, who owns a vegetable and flower farm in Longmont, said her husband got a call at 3 a.m. from the local fire chief, warning that a 20-foot wall of water was barreling down nearby Left Hand Creek. Ms. Tawse’s property, nestled among a patchwork of family farms about 10 miles north of Boulder, was spared. But her neighbors were not so lucky.

“We’re on slightly higher ground, so we’re not in danger,” she said. “But their farm fields are completely underwater.”

Ms. Tawse said that by early Thursday, Left Hand Creek, typically barely a trickle, had swollen into a raging rush of muddy water.

“We had a bad flood here in 1995,” she said. “But this is worse than that.”

Dan Frosch reported from Boulder, and Timothy Williams from New York.

Pre-fab home roof gone, house off foundation, left;  "For Rent" sign underwater, as house and its mortgage likely are, too.  Mississippi floodway plan c. 1937 and levees blasted by Army Corps, allowing downstream flooding.  Unknown what will happen next...

This image provided by NASA Saturday May 14, 2011, and taken by an Expedition 27 crew member aboard the International Space Station May 12, 2011, clearly showing the outlines of some heavily flooded agricultural fields on the Missouri side of the Mississippi river. The center point for this frame is just north of Caruthersville, Mo. and west of Ridgely, Tenn. North is toward the lower right corner of the image. (AP Photo/NASA)

Sirens sound as river tops levees in N Dakota city

By DAVE KOLPACK - Associated Press
22 June 2011

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Sirens wailed across Minot Wednesday as the swollen Souris River overtopped levees five hours ahead of a looming evacuation deadline, setting in motion what is expected to be the worst flooding to hit the North Dakota city in four decades.

The warning was followed by an announcement saying, "All residents must evacuate, Zones 1 through 9," prompting the last of nearly 11,000 Minot residents to leave their homes for a second time in a month.

Robyn Whitlow, 27, who was helping some residents move the last of their belongings, burst into tears when the sirens sounded at 12:57 p.m.

"I feel so bad for everybody," said Whitlow, a Minot resident who lives outside the evacuation zone.

The Souris River, which loops down from Canada through north central North Dakota, has been bloated by heavy spring snowmelt and rain on both sides of the border.

The resulting deluge is expected to dwarf a historic flood of 1969, when the Souris reached 1,555.4 feet above sea level. The river is expected to hit nearly 1,563 feet this weekend — eventually topping the historical record of 1,558 feet set in 1881.

Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman warned Wednesday morning that the river would top the levees earlier than expected and said residents still moving their belongings from the evacuation zone should "do their last-minute thing and be prepared to move quickly."

The National Weather Service in Bismarck also issued a flash-flood warning along the Souris River from Burlington through Minot and Logan to Sawyer.

Before the sirens sounded, Laura Nessler, a 50-year-old nurse, watched the water lap against a bridge on Broadway, the main north-south thoroughfare through Minot. The road was bumper-to-bumper with furniture-loaded pickup trucks and cars pulling U-Hauls trying to get out of town.

Nessler pointed to a side street that had become inundated in the hour since she arrived.

"That didn't have any water when I got here, and now it's filling up," Nessler said.

Ashley Getchell, 25, was snapping some photos at Broadway Bridge to document the flood for her 1½- and 3-year-old kids and because she "has no place else to go."

The stay-at-home mom had moved most of her belongings from her home at Holiday Village Trailer Park to a friend's house, but she didn't have enough time rescue anything else.

"I'm going to be losing my house," she said calmly. "I guess if anybody needed a reason to start over, this is it."

The mayor said the city has just been buying time, and he urged people to be safe as they leave.

"Be cautious and be courteous, I guess," he told KXMC. "Everybody's trying to do the same thing. If we work together, the result's probably going to be the best."

Further north near the U.S.-Canada border, a rapid rise of nearly four feet was observed on the Souris River in the Sherwood area, the National Weather Service late Wednesday morning. The area is the first point in North Dakota where water released from Canadian dams is observed.

The weather service said flash flooding was expected in mainly rural areas of northwest Renville County, along with the hamlet of Greene. Renville County Emergency Manager Kristy Titus ordered a mandatory evacuation of Mouse River Park.

About 10,000 Minot residents were evacuated earlier this month before the river hit 1,554.1 feet. They were later allowed to return to their homes, but told to be ready to leave again quickly.

Nearly 500 North Dakota National Guard soldiers were in Minot to provide traffic control, ensure people were leaving left their homes and secure neighborhoods.

Guard commander Dave Sprynczynatyk said he expected the impact of the impending flood among the worst he has seen in his 40-year career.

"What I see right now is probably the most devastating in terms of the number of people directly impacted and what will likely be the damage to homes as the water begins to overtop the levees and fill in behind," he said.

Crews race to build up levee ahead of floodwaters
By GRANT SCHULTE and JOSH FUNK, Associated Press
14 June 2011

HAMBURG, Iowa – Workers raced Tuesday to add several feet to a temporary levee that is now the only barrier between the small town of Hamburg and the menace of the rising Missouri River.

Crews from the Army Corps of Engineers planned to increase the levee's height by three feet. But time was short and the stakes were high: If the levee were to fail, parts of this southwestern Iowa community could be under as much as 10 feet of water within days.

The temporary earthen levee became the last line of defense for Hamburg after the river ruptured two levees in northwest Missouri on Monday, sending torrents of water over rural farmland toward Hamburg and a Missouri resort community downriver.  The Army Corps does not expect those floodwaters to reach Hamburg until at least sometime Wednesday. Initially, the floodwaters were projected to reach Hamburg on Tuesday.

The Missouri River is rising because the corps has been releasing massive amounts of water from its dams to clear out heavy spring rain and snowmelt.  Those releases at Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota hit the maximum planned amount Tuesday morning. So officials downstream in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri will be watching closely for more levee problems.  Parts of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, have already seen some flooding, and officials predict the problems will linger through the summer because of the large volume of water already in the river, and the above-average Rocky Mountain snowpack.

About 45 miles south of Hamburg in Missouri, the river broke through a levee near Big Lake in Holt County. About 30 residents had stayed in the resort town after the river started rising, but they were told to leave Monday.

When work is complete in Hamburg, a town of 1,100 people, the finished levee should be about eight feet tall.  To help buy some additional time for the levee improvements, the corps said it planned to intentionally breach the main levee that failed Monday at a point downstream. Doing so should slow the flow of water.  The corps started building the new Hamburg levee last week after finding problems in the main levee in Missouri that failed Monday.

If Hamburg's new levee were to fail later this week, parts of the town could be covered by as much as 10 feet of standing water for months.  Several businesses near the remaining levee stood empty Tuesday, as crews continued to move dirt around the new earthen levee to protect Hamburg.  Todd Morgan with A&M Green Power Group says the owners of the John Deere dealership had relocated their business to one of the company's other dealerships in Shenandoah 25 miles away.

"We wanted to play it safe than sorry," Morgan said. "Every day that goes by, you seem to hear something different. With the breach yesterday, we just don't know what the integrity of that levee is."

Morgan said he doesn't know whether the dealership will return.  Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope said all but seven of the roughly 40 households in the southern part of Hamburg have evacuated voluntarily. The remaining seven have moved all of their furniture and can escape quickly if the town is flooded, he said.

Aistrope said the department has summoned 20 part-time reserve deputies, in addition to the regular eight-member staff, to help with law enforcement and traffic.

Breech in levy in northwest Missouri made (above r.)
14 June 2011

A breech in a levy in northwest Missouri made by the Missouri River on Monday is seen in a Tuesday, June 14, 2011 photo. The river ruptured two levees
in northwest Missouri Monday, sending torrents of water over rural farmland toward Hamburg in southwest Iowa and a Missouri resort community downriver. By Wednesday, water spilling through a nearly 300-foot hole in the levee near Hamburg was expected to top a secondary levee built last week to protect the town.

Costly Miss. River closure meant to protect levees
17 May 2011

NEW ORLEANS – The Coast Guard has interrupted shipping along the major artery for moving grain from farms in the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico over fears that the bulging Mississippi River could strain levees that protect hundreds of thousands from flooding. Already, thousands have sought refuge from floodwaters up and down the river.

The Coast Guard said it closed the Mississippi River at the port in Natchez, Miss., because barge traffic could increase pressure on the levees. Heavy flooding from Mississippi tributaries has displaced more than 4,000 in the state, about half of them upstream from Natchez in the Vicksburg area.

Several barges were idled at Natchez at the time of the closure, and many more could back up along the lower Mississippi. It wasn't clear when the river would reopen, but port officials said the interruption could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of millions of dollars per day.

The closure is the latest high-stakes decision made to protect homes and businesses that sit behind levees and floodwalls along the river. To take pressure off levees surrounding heavily populated New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the Army Corps of Engineers opened the key Morganza Spillway, choosing to flood more rural areas with fewer homes. Another spillway near New Orleans was opened earlier, but it doesn't threaten homes.

Most residents in the path of the Morganza's floodwaters have heeded the call to leave their homes. Bernadine Turner, who lives in a mandatory evacuation zone near Krotz Springs, La., spent a third day Monday moving her things out. Water from the Morganza opening was not expected to reach the town about 40 miles west of Baton Rouge for several days, but most residents were taking no chances.

"There's no doubt it's going to come up. We don't have flood insurance, and most people here don't. Man, it would be hard to start all over," she said.

Economic pain from the flooding could be felt far from the South because of the river closure. During the spring, the Mississippi is a highway for towboats pushing barges laden with corn, soybeans and other crops brought down from the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi river systems. Farm products come down the river to a port near New Orleans to be loaded onto massive grain carriers for export.

The Port of South Louisiana is the largest grain port the country, handling about 54 percent of U.S. exports. The port's operations director, Mitch Smith, said the extent of the impact from the Natchez closing will depend on how long it lasts and how many barges are trapped upriver.

"Definitely, if it is a long closure, we will feel an economic impact," Smith said.

At least 10 freight terminals along the lower Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans have suspended operations because of the high water, said Roy Gonzalez, acting president of the Gulf States Maritime Association. In many cases, their docks are already at water level or going under, he said.

Vessels scheduled to use the terminals will either have to wait out the high water or divert to other terminals or ports. Additional costs for delaying any one vessel routinely run $20,000 to $40,000 per day, port officials say.

It's not clear how long it will take for normal operations to return at Natchez and other terminals. The river is expected to crest Saturday in Natchez at 63 feet, down a half-foot than earlier predictions, but almost five feet above a record set in 1937. It could take weeks for the water to recede.

All along the Mississippi River, a small army of engineers, deputies and even inmates is keeping round-the-clock watch at the many floodwalls and earthen levees holding the water back. They are looking for any droplets that seep through the barriers and any cracks that threaten to turn small leaks into big problems.

The work is hot and sometimes tedious, but without it, the flooding could get much worse.

"I volunteered for this," said jail inmate Wayne McClinton, who was helping with the sandbagging effort in northern Louisiana's Tensas Parish. "It's a chance to get out in the air, to do something different. It's not boring like prison is."

Although the job requires 24-hour vigilance, Reynold Minsky, president of a north Louisiana levee district, said there are some places in his mostly rural district of forest and farmland where he will not ask anyone to go after sundown.

"Unless we've got a serious situation that we know we've found before dark, we don't ask these people to go into these wooded areas because of the snakes and the alligators," Minsky said while taking a break from helicopter tours of the levees. "That's inhumane."

Minsky's 5th Louisiana Levee District is plagued these days by "sand boils," places where river water has found a way through earthen levees and bubbled up on the dry side like an artesian well. He insists they are no reason for alarm. If the water is clear, as it has been so far, that means the levee is not eroding. Stopping the boil involves ringing it with sandbags.

In New Orleans, workers inspect the levees daily when the water is high to look for potential trouble spots. The levees there — which are not among those that failed along canals after Hurricane Katrina — have survived high water before and will survive this latest test, city officials said. The opening of the Morganza has stopped the river's rise at New Orleans, but the relief valve sent water gushing into the mostly rural Atchafalaya River basin.

"There's no question about it, New Orleans is safe, New Orleans is dry and the system's working as it was designed," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Tuesday morning on CBS' "The Early show."

For those in the path of waters let loose by the Morganza, a tense waiting game has begun. On Monday, 75-year-old Leif Montin watched a truck tow away a storage pod containing most of the furniture he and his wife have in their home in Butte Larose, a community emptied by residents fleeing the rising waters.

"I guess you guys are ready to get out of here," the driver said to Montin.

"Yep. Pretty much," responded Montin.

Louisiana floodgate opens, diverting Mississippi
By Mary Foster and Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press
Updated: 4:24 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, 2011

MORGANZA, Louisiana (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from a spillway along the rising Mississippi River in Louisiana, diverting water into the countryside in hopes of avoiding a potentially bigger disaster in heavily populated areas downstream.  A gate at the Morganza spillway was raised Saturday afternoon for the first time in 38 years. The water came out slowly at first, then began gushing like a waterfall.  About 3,000 square miles (7,770 square kilometers) of land known for small farms and fish camps could wind up under as much as 25 feet (7.5 meters) of water.  However, officials say the move will ease pressure on levees protecting New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and oil refineries and chemical plants downstream.

For those who may remember the flooding crisis as a result of a hurricane, click here.
Bonnet Carre spillway opening shunts Mississippi River water away from New Orleans
Times-Picayune Staff By Times-Picayune Staff
Published: Monday, May 09, 2011, 10:15 PM     Updated: Monday, May 09, 2011, 11:51 PM

The Army Corps of Engineers began shunting part of the Mississippi River through the Bonnet Carre Spillway and away from New Orleans' levees on Monday, as 28 of the spillway's 350 bays were opened to lower the river levels downstream.

Meanwhile, the president of the Mississippi River Commission told members of the Legislature that the Morganza Floodway near Simmesport also is likely to be opened, with an official announcement to be made no later than next Tuesday.

The corps also released new maps predicting inundation from the Mississippi near Vidalia and other parts of northeast Louisiana near Natchez, Miss., and of backwater flooding in the north-central part of the state as the Mississippi is unable to receive flow from tributaries such as the Red and Ouachita rivers.

Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a succinct warning for the entire state as he encouraged residents to prepare immediately: "If you got wet in 1973, you'll get wet this time. If you nearly got wet in 1973, you'll probably get wet this time."

Jindal has activated more than 400 Louisiana National Guard troops to assist in placing sandbags and river barriers, inspect levees and walk door-to-door to notify residents and property owners in basins and floodways from Vidalia to Morgan City.

"Our first priority is to protect human life; our second priority is the protection of property," Jindal told reporters at the state's Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge.

All of spillway's bays will be opened

By 11:30 a.m. on Monday, 560 wooden "needles" had been pulled by cranes from the Bonnet Carre bays and laid on top of the 1.3 mile-long control structure.  All bays will be opened in the coming days in an effort to relieve pressure on strained levees throughout the Mississippi River Valley, which has been buffeted by weeks of unrelenting rain, Commission President Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh told legislators late Monday, as will half the bays in the Morganza Floodway above Baton Rouge.

The last time all Bonnet Carre bays were opened was in 1983, while the only time the Morganza Floodway has been used was in 1973.

Even with the Bonnet Carre spillway being opened, the river will be at 17 feet, the official flood level, at the Carrollton Gauge in New Orleans this morning, according to the National Weather Service's Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell. Without opening Morganza, the river would crest there on May 23 at 19.5 feet, a half-foot below the top of floodwalls in New Orleans.

'Historic flows'

"We are seeing historic flows and historic stages in the Mississippi River," said Col. Ed Fleming, commander of the corps' New Orleans District office. "We're trying to reduce the pressure on the levees so we don't have a catastrophic failure."

The floodwalls around New Orleans stand at 20 feet.

Walsh, who also is commander of the corps' Mississippi River Division, which governs the entire river from Minnesota to Louisiana, told legislators he could make the formal decision to open Morganza as early as Saturday or Sunday, or as late as next Tuesday.  Its opening is governed by the speed of water passing Red River Landing, on the river's west bank across from the Louisiana State Prison at Angola. When the flow reaches 1.5 million cubic feet per second and is increasing, the floodway is opened. As much as 1.9 million cubic feet per second is expected at that location before the river crests.

Increased flow through the Old River Control Structure, added to the Morganza flow, is threatening to flood most of the Atchafalaya and Morganza spillways, which are bounded by guide levees.

Updated flood maps in the works

The corps is working with officials in affected parishes to develop more detailed maps that would show what areas will be inundated. A statewide map released by the corps over the weekend did not include enough detail to identify buildings or homes that might be flooded.

"We're working the numbers right now," said Lt. Col. Mark Jernigan, deputy commander of the New Orleans District.

The huge flow of water also is expected to increase the size of the annual low-oxygen "dead zone," along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas to as much as 20 percent of the record set in 2002, said Louisiana State University marine biologist Eugene Turner. That year, the low oxygen area stretched over 8,500 square miles, an area the size of New Jersey.

The low oxygen levels are caused by blooms of algae fueled by nutrients in the fresh water, including fertilizer washed off Midwest farms. The algae dies and sinks to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, where its decomposition uses up oxygen needed by bottom-living organisms.  Turner said that while sediment would bind with phosphorus from the fertilizers and drop out in the floodways, nitrogen would survive, and could spark the creation of toxic blue-green algae. The blue-green algae also is likely to form in Lake Pontchartrain, as it did after the Bonnet Carre was opened for about a month in 2008, forcing the closure of some parts of the lake to fishing and other recreational pursuits, he said.

A study of the 2008 opening for the corps found that while there were short-term adverse effects from the opening, the lake and its fisheries recovered quickly.

Preparing for the worst

State officials are preparing for the worst as the floodways are opened. The Department of Health and Hospitals has notified scores of hospitals and nursing homes to launch their individual flooding plans. The Department of Transportation and Development is monitoring roadways and bridges and will make all decisions about closures. The Department of Natural Resources has notified 135 oil and gas operators that control 1,750 wells threatened with varying levels of flooding.

In Washington, D.C., the Obama administration has granted a partial disaster declaration for Louisiana, rather than the full declaration Jindal initially sought. The partial declaration allows state and local governments to receive direct federal supplies, but a full declaration is necessary for state and local entities to get up to 75 percent reimbursement for its expenses related to flood control. The Federal Emergency Management Agency could later expand the declaration.

Jindal said he is seeking an immediate appeal, as the state already has spent $3.8 million and that cost will climb steadily.

Six miles to the lake

At Bonnet Carre, water from the river races nearly six miles through the 7,600-acre spillway into the lake. No residences are threatened by flooding, as the water will be contained within the spillway and the lake.

Local levee district officials are urging residents not to drive or even walk on levees along the river, in addition to the usual high-water restrictions on excavation and pile-driving.  Corps officials said opening the spillway will be gradual, with bays being opened in various places along the structure.

"We don't want to put too much pressure on any one spot," said Chris Brantley, corps manager of the spillway.

The high water levels in the Mississippi have led to the closing of the Reserve-Edgard ferry, said St. John the Baptist Parish spokeswoman Paige Braud.  Fleming said the corps is providing assistance to communities in Terrebonne, St. Mary and other parishes within or adjacent to the Atchafalaya Basin.

"We can provide technical support. We can provide sandbags to help those communities," Fleming said.

The East Jefferson Levee District provided 880 Hesco baskets, made of fabric and metal to hold sand and rock, to Morgan City last week.  Despite the gravity of the situation, the opening in St. Charles Parish took on a festive atmosphere, as hundreds of onlookers watched the 8 a.m. spillway opening, perhaps attracted by that rarity in Louisiana: fast-flowing water.

"I'm 64 years old, so I thought I ought to see it once," said Richard Bourge of Houma. His friend, Jim Adams of Destrehan, has seen several openings.

"I wanted to bring my grandson, but he's in school," Adams said.

Armed with cameras, lawn chairs and coolers, some with babies and dogs, folks from throughout the area braved sparse parking and a hefty hike in humid conditions to watch the cranes pull the spillway pins. 
Hunter Fontenot, 16, of Kenner and a few of his friends skipped school to come watch.

"(We came) to see something that really doesn't happen that often," Fontenot said.

But Fontenot's buddy, Justin Shamah, said it didn't quite live up to the hype.

"I was expecting more of a big gate, like a big wave of water washing through," he said. "Like a tidal wave."

Click for full story and map of current flooding
A Levee Breached, and New Worries Downstream
May 3, 2011

SIKESTON, MO. — With a rapid series of explosions late Monday that could be felt for miles through the Missouri soil, the Army Corps of Engineers successfully blew out some 11,000 feet of Mississippi River levee, taking dangerous pressure off the river above.

But now the risk is flowing downstream.

Waters released into the 130,000-acre floodway by the corps will soon re-enter the Mississippi near New Madrid, through two 5,500-foot stretches blasted out over two days at the lower end of the basin, and the crest will continue to roll on, with the river expected to match or beat its previous record heights at many points along the way.

For the people responsible for trying to manage the unmanageable river, each success is replaced by new worries.

“We’re just at the beginning of the beginning,” said Maj. Gen. Michael J. Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers and president of the Mississippi River Commission.

His decision to inundate the 130,000 acres within the spillway’s basin almost certainly saved the town of Cairo, Ill. The river had reached a record 61.7 feet at Cairo before the explosion and was predicted to rise more than a foot further.

The river fell to 60.1 feet by Tuesday afternoon. But, General Walsh warned, the floodway only offered temporary relief and the water levels upstream could soon rise again. “The crest will come back up,” he added. “We’ll see where we go from there.”

The people whose land was under all that water watched with wonder and dismay.

“She’s coming across here now, ain’t she?” Ed Marshall, 57, a farmer, said as he arrived Tuesday to get an early sense of the damage with his insurance agent atop the interior levee that forms the western boundary of the spillway. “There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s in God’s hands.”

Mark Dugan, 59, used binoculars to find the top of his recently remodeled farmhouse poking out, like an iceberg, from the fast-moving water. A shed had been washed into a stand of trees.

“We just question the way they did it,” he said of the Army Corps of Engineers. “Actually we even question the fact they did do it.”

Gov. Jay Nixon visited the emergency command center here on Tuesday, declaring, “It’s a lot of water out there, folks.” He was not talking just about the river, but also about communities farther inland, where days of rain had saturated and covered the ground.

Mr. Nixon pledged to commit resources to restoring the area. “It goes beyond rebuilding the levee,” he said. “It’s about rebuilding the farm economy here.”

Carlin Bennett, the presiding commissioner for Mississippi County, said his community’s biggest fear was that the plan to use the spillway would ultimately have little effect: “You blow the levee, it ruins us and you don’t get any relief up or downstream.”

Meanwhile the surging river, and the flooding it is almost certain to cause, moved south. More than 40 percent of the nation’s waters drain into the Mississippi, and relentless rainfall is creating formidable challenges.

“We’re going to fight this river all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico,” said Col. Vernie L. Reichling Jr., who commands the Memphis District of the corps. He estimated that the corps had already spent $5 million fighting the flood in his district. “I don’t see this letting up,” he said, adding that he expected to be fighting the flooding into next month.

While the main defenses along the Mississippi are expected to hold up under the onslaught, flooding is likely as water backs up into the rivers and tributaries that feed into the Mississippi, and tests “non-federal” levees that line those waterways.

“The water can’t drain into the Mississippi because the river levels are so high,” said Jeff Graschel of the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And while the federal levees are high and strong, “anything that’s non-federal is a different story,” he said.

Current and former corps officials said that they expect almost every part of the system that was designed to divert floodwaters along the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project to come into play, including backwater areas at the mouths of the St. Francis, White, Yazoo and Red Rivers. Their levees are designed to allow floodwaters to course over the top when the river rises too high.

Farther down the river, there is the Old River Control Structure, which was built to keep the Atchafalaya Basin from capturing too much of the Mississippi’s flow.

Flooding in 1973 undercut the enormous structure and threatened to wash it away. But improvements in subsequent years and additional facilities have lessened the risk to an extent that experts have expressed little concern about it. They also suggested that it might serve to temporarily divert more of the Mississippi’s waters in the worst of the flood.

Below the Old River Control Structure come two additional spillways — the Morganza and Bonnet Carré — that can release water from the Mississippi’s flow.

The corps is likely to open the gates on both of those structures. The Morganza can send 600,000 cubic feet of water per second down the Atchafalaya Basin; it has not been used since the floods of 1973.

The Bonnet Carré spillway, about 30 miles above New Orleans, can drive 250,000 cubic feet per second into Lake Pontchartrain, which can then empty into the gulf. It has been used nine times between 1937 and 2008.

“It’s like a symphony,” said Charles A. Camillo, a historian with the Mississippi Valley division of the corps. “You’ve got a lot of different instruments being played at the same time.”

Don T. Riley, a former deputy chief of engineers for the corps and a retired major general, expressed confidence in the ability of the Mississippi’s flood control systems to deal with tremendous volumes of water.

But he said tributary flooding was a continuing concern, and parts of the main river control system had not yet been completed to the maximum height and strength called for in the corps’ plans.

Though the system is hardy and resilient, Mr. Riley said, “there’s going to be big concern all the way down the river — if more rains come, all bets are off.”

The power of nature to overcome the best defenses should never be underestimated, said George C. Grugett, the executive vice president of the Mississippi Valley Flood Control Association near Memphis.

“People don’t understand how mighty this old Mississippi is,” he said, “and how much damage it can do when it goes on a rampage like this.”

A. G. Sulzberger reported from Sikeston, and John Schwartz from New York. Malcolm Gay contributed reporting from Cairo, Ill.

River level falling in Cairo, Ill., after corps blasts levee
3 May, 2011
UPDATED 7:30 a.m. with river dropping at Cairo

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, Mo. • Torrents of rain swept across farm fields and boat lights glowed red on the swollen Mississippi Monday night. Then a row of orange flashes and a series of booms echoed across the Birds Point levee in southeastern Missouri.

The smell of explosives hung in the air as Col. Vernie L. Reichling, Memphis District Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, announced to a caravan of reporters on top of the levee that the corps had successfully set off several explosions to weaken the levee and allow the Mississippi River to rush across 130,000 acres of Missouri farm land.

Reichling called the move historic and tragic.

Officials said that allowing water to fill the Birds Point-New Madrid floodway would relieve pressure and lower record flooding upstream at Cairo, Ill., where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers converge.

And by 7:30 a.m, that was happening. The National Weather Service said before the breach, the Cairo level was at 61.72 feet and rising. By Tuesday morning, the river was at 60.62 feet and was expected to keep falling to 59.4 feet by Saturday.

But the plan required evacuating about 300 homes in the floodway and sparked a legal skirmish between Missouri and Illinois attorneys general.

On Monday afternoon, corps Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh said the levee system was "under enormous and unprecedented pressure" and needed relief as soon as possible.

Awaiting the blast, Carlin Bennett, presiding commissioner of Mississippi County, said a 10- to 15-foot wall of water could wash across about a third of his county.

"You tell me what's that going to do to this area," Bennett said, "Nobody knows."

The floodway plan has not been used since 1937, when the water rose to 59.5 feet at Cairo. That record stood until Sunday when the Ohio River topped 60 feet there. More rain fell through the day. The National Weather Service predicted a crest at 63 feet on Thursday. Officials hoped the levee action would drop that crest by 3 to 4 feet.

The corps had been closely evaluating the rising river levels all weekend, while continuing preparations .

Lightning on Sunday night slowed their work. By 5 p.m. Monday, the crew pumping the liquid explosives was only 80 percent finished. That pushed the first explosion just past 10 p.m. Monday. Afterward, Reichling said the corps would move south to New Madrid, Mo., and set off another series of blasts.

Walsh said the levee breach would not mark the end of the high water, which would be around for a while. "Nobody has seen this type of flood," he said.

Mississippi County farmers were concerned about how long it would take to recover from the silt the river would leave on their fields when it receded.

Bob Byrne, 59, farms 550 acres below the Missouri levee and called news about the pending break "devastating."

"It's a sickening feeling," he said. "They're talking about not getting the water off until late July or early August. That knocks out a whole season."

In the 1980s, when the floodway plan was under review, Bennett said, officials estimated that activating the floodway would cost residents and the county $300 million. Today, he said, losses probably will total close to $1 billion.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, said Monday that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had assured her that farmers in the floodway who had crop insurance would be compensated as if this man-made flood were a natural disaster. "I know that helps a lot of people but not everybody," she said.

As for equipment and homes left behind, she said, "That's all down the rat hole."

Emerson joined Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Monday in urging federal officials to restore the floodway "in full, without delay or red tape and without uncertainty or further hardship upon those who will inevitably suffer in the Missouri Bootheel."

The demolition was expected to cover about 11,000 feet of the levee.

Walsh - the man ultimately responsible for the decision to go through with the plan - has indicated that he may not stop with the Missouri levee. In recent days, Walsh has said he might also make use of other downstream "floodways" - basins surrounded by levees that can intentionally be blown open to divert floodwaters.

Among those that could be tapped are the 58-year-old Morganza floodway near Morgan City, La., and the Bonnet Carre floodway about 30 miles north of New Orleans. The Morganza has been pressed into service just once, in 1973. The Bonnet Carre, which was christened in 1932 has been opened up nine times since 1937, the most recent in 2008.

"Making this decision is not easy or hard," Walsh said. "It's simply grave - because the decision leads to loss of property and livelihood, either in a floodway or in an area that was not designed to flood."

Storms unleash deadly tornado, flooding on Midwest
By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
26 April 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. – A powerful storm system that spawned a deadly tornado in Arkansas caused rivers to swell Tuesday across the Midwest, straining levees that protect thousands of homes and forcing panicked residents of one town to flee for higher ground.

Six inches of rain fell Monday alone in the southeastern Missouri community of Poplar Bluff, bringing the four-day total to 15 inches. The deluge caused the Black River to pour over a levee in 30 places and to break through in one spot, and about 1,000 homes were evacuated.

Deputy Police Chief Jeff Rolland said it was a "miracle" that the levee had held until late morning. He credited emergency crews for their work to bolster weakened areas of the barrier and for evacuating residents from about 1,000 homes.

The levee extends from Poplar Bluff to the town of Qulan downstream, in a sparsely populated area. Butler County Sheriff Mark Dodd said water pouring through a breach between the two towns was unlikely to make it far enough upstream to threaten Poplar Bluff, a town of 17,000 residents about 130 miles south of St. Louis. Authorities planned to evacuate only homes closest to the breach.

Flooding in 2008 damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes in Poplar Bluff, raising questions about whether the levee was capable of protecting the town during times of heavy rainfall.

A federal inspection afterward gave the levee a failing grade, and the private district that operates the levee was unable to make repairs since, Tony Hill, an official with the Army Corps of Engineers, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Because the problems weren't addressed, the levee no longer qualifies for a federal program that provides money for such repairs, he said.

The storm system has dumped relentless rain on several states over the past week, including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee. As the worst of the system moved north and east into Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Tennessee, the region was bracing for a second round of storms expected to roll into Oklahoma and Arkansas later Tuesday.

The storms spawned at least one tornado Monday in Arkansas that killed four people and carved a wide swath of destruction through the town of Vilonia, 25 miles north Little Rock. And flooding in the northwest of the state caused at least five other deaths.

The National Weather Service office in North Little Rock sent survey teams to Vilonia and nearby Garland County to investigate the damage from Monday's storm and assess how much of it was caused by tornados or straight-line winds.

John Robinson, a weather service warning coordination meteorologist, said it could take days.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we were to end up with a count of 10 or 12 tornadoes by the time all the surveys are completed," Robinson said.

Authorities in Mississippi say a 3-year-old girl in the city of McComb was killed when a storm from the same system toppled a large tree into her family's home. The girl's parents, who were in the room with her, were both injured.

More showers and thunderstorms were expected in the area on Tuesday, giving crews that worked overnight to sure-up the levee no rest.

Rolland said street department workers hurriedly filled small boats with sandbags overnight and were able to sure up a vulnerable section of the levee in Popular Bluff.

Crews rescued 59 people in 1 1/2 hours late Monday after water spilled over the dam.

A full-scale levee breach could force the evacuation of some 6,000 homes from Poplar Bluff to Qulin and destroy or severely damage 500 homes in Poplar Bluff and its outskirts, Rolland said.

Already, 23 small businesses in the area's flood plain have taken on water, he said.

The hotels in town filled up quickly, and 300 people took shelter at the Black River Coliseum, the town's 500-seat concert venue, Rolland said. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported.

Families forced to flee their homes Monday watched as murky floodwater began creeping into their yards and homes. If the levee were to give way, many of those homes would be left uninhabitable. Sandbagging wasn't an option — the river, spurred on by 10 inches or more of rain since last week, simply rose too quickly.

"By the time we realized what was happening, it was too dangerous to sandbag," Butler County Presiding Commissioner Ed Strenfel said.

Governors in Arkansas and Kentucky declared states of emergency. Kentucky was bracing for record flooding over the next few days, partly because the Ohio and Mississippi rivers were both significantly above flood stage. In Cairo, Ill., where the rivers converge, eight families informed authorities that they were heeding voluntary evacuation order, police dispatcher Cheryl James said Tuesday.

The Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday that it will take the extraordinary step of intentionally breaching the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri, just downriver of the confluence, in a bid to reduce the amount of water moving down the Mississippi. Gov. Jay Nixon objects to the plan and the state attorney general sued to stop it. They say destroying the levee would flood of up to 130,000 acres of farmland.

A dam in St. Francois County was in jeopardy of bursting, with a few dozen homes potentially in harm's way. Levees were stressed along the Mississippi River in Pike and Lincoln counties, north of St. Louis.

But by far the biggest concern was Poplar Bluff. The Missouri National Guard sent 200 guardsmen and rescue equipment to the area. Several people had to be rescued by boat, including some who don't live in the flood plain, as heavy rain flooded several streets Monday night.

Police officers spent Monday going door-to-door in the southwest part of town, telling residents to get out. Not everyone did.

Along one road near the levee, children played knee-deep in water. Adults gathered on the porches, seemingly enjoying nature's show.

"I'm not worried. This is my favorite time of the year," 20-year-old Brandon Andrews said, pledging to ride out the flood in his trailer home, even as water lapped against its sides. He didn't have a boat and the water was already too high to drive through, but Andrews said he had been to the store and stocked up on hot dogs, chili and necessities.

Police Chief Danny Whiteley was hoping the water would recede soon enough that flooding would mostly be limited to basements. He wasn't optimistic.

"I guess you'd call it a perfect storm: It's just all come together at once," Whiteley said.

Police: Levee protecting Mo. town holds overnight
By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
26 April 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. – Police say a levee protecting a southeast Missouri town from major flooding held up overnight and that they're keeping a close eye on areas where water is spilling over the structure.

Poplar Bluff deputy police chief Jeff Rolland (ROH'-lind) said early Tuesday that the Black River overran the levee in about 30 locations between Poplar Bluff and the nearby town of Qulin (KWIL'-in.)

Rolland says crews rescued 59 people in 1 1/2 hours late Monday after water spilled over the dam and inundated a section of Poplar Bluff.

Some 1,000 homes have been evacuated in the area. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported and the town's commercial district is not threatened.

Poplar Bluff has about 17,000 residents and is 130 miles south of St. Louis.

Mo. levee threatens to burst amid worsening floods
25 April 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. – A thousand residents fled their homes in southern Missouri on Monday as heavy rains falling on saturated ground threatened to break the levee protecting their town. Smaller evacuations also took place from Kentucky to Arkansas as rivers and lakes continued to rise, and it was only expected to get worse.

Forecasters called for severe storms that will drop more heavy rain across the lower Ohio and Mississippi River valleys, compounding the misery from a storm system that pounded the region last week and over the weekend, spawning tornadoes and washing away roads. Some places have seen 10 to 15 inches already, and the worst flooding may not come until Wednesday.

Two storms with heavy rain and possible tornadoes are moving into the region, with northeast Texas, eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas expected to feel the brunt, said Greg Carbin, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. Areas in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee are expected to get several more inches of rain, and Carbin predicted "substantial" flooding as water lands on ground too wet to absorb it or in rivers and lakes already over flood stage.

He said it's unusual to see two distinct storm systems hit the same spots back to back, but that's what will happen.

"I think we'll see substantial flooding. It will affect those areas already experiencing heavy rain," he said.

On Monday, police in Poplar Bluff, a town of 17,000 people about 150 miles southwest of St. Louis, moved residents out before noon Monday, after officials said they feared a "catastrophic failure" of the town's levee on the Black River was imminent. Some evacuees sought shelter at the town's Black River Coliseum, a 5,000-seat concert and meeting venue that overlooks the swollen river and a park that's already under water. Others moved in with friends and relatives. There were no reports of injuries.

A steady stream of people carrying their belongings in plastic sacks flowed into the coliseum, where members of the United Gospel Rescue Mission had food prepared. Rev. Gregory Kirk said he got the call to feed people early Monday and he'd been up and working since 4 a.m.

One of his main suppliers had already been flooded, he said.

"We feed everybody," Kirk said. "I'm stressed out. I've been up all night."

The floods added to a miserable weekend for much of southern and eastern Missouri. A tornado tore through the St. Louis suburbs and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Friday, damaging dozens of homes and gashing the roof of the airport's main terminal. More storms spawned flash flooding in southwest Missouri on Saturday.

Branson spokesman Jerry Adams said 15 people along the edge of Lake Taneycomo were moved, and the popular tourist town's camper park was evacuated.

Meanwhile, Table Rock Dam, about a half-hour west of downtown Branson, prepared to open its floodgates, after the lake rose almost 5 feet in 24 hours, lake manager Greg Oller told the Springfield News-Leader.

Branson has had nearly 7 inches of rain over the past three days, and like many other already-soaked cities, it was expected to get more. Communities along the Ohio River in southern Indiana and Illinois River in Oklahoma began sandbagging Monday, and severe storms rumbling across Arkansas created a risk of tornadoes and more flooding along the Spring and Black rivers. City Hall and private homes in Hardy, Ark., were evacuated Monday before rising water from the Spring River.

"We just got back in after the last flood," Mayor Nina Thornton lamented.

Indiana resident John Deplata, 43, rented a moving truck Monday and began packing his belongings from his home in Utica Township along the Ohio River, just across from Louisville, Ky. His house was filled with about 4 feet of water during the 1997 floods that hit that part of the state.

"If the rain comes in like they're talking ... then it'll get us," Deplata said.

Dozens of roads and several schools were closed by flooding and flash flooding across Kentucky and Missouri.

F L O O D I N G    U . S . A .    -   n e w    t o o l s   a v a i l a b l e    h e r e
Flooding assistance link here.

Bloated lake haunts North Dakota town again
By JAMES MacPHERSON, Associated Press Writer
March 20, 2010

KATHRYN, N.D. – Almost a year after worried authorities went door to door warning residents to flee as water carved through a nearby dam, this tiny North Dakota town is facing the possibility of having to evacuate again because of flooding.

Fueled by runoff from a winter of heavy snow, water is swiftly rising behind the Clausen Springs Dam. And Kathryn's 55 citizens are frustrated that nothing has been done to repair or replace the damaged dam that threatens to break and inundate this blink-and-you-miss-it community, about 60 miles southwest of the state's biggest city of Fargo.

"We're just an itty-bitty town and we don't carry any clout," Mayor Dave Majerus said. "If that dam was above Fargo, there would be some concern and definitely something would get done."

Flood worries extend far beyond Fargo and other North Dakota and Minnesota communities along the north-flowing Red River. Heavy, wet snow has caused widespread flooding for other parts of North Dakota, and several communities such as Linton, Lisbon, LaMoure and Jamestown are being fortified with temporary levees and sandbags to beat back the rising water. In Minto, about 16 homes in the community of 300 are threatened by floodwaters, and residents are frantically using sump pumps to stay dry.

Few of those places, though, are as worried as Kathryn.

Stray cats are sometimes more likely to be seen than residents in the town, which boasts little more than a bar, a post office and a church. Though the community has seen better times it's still no less important than any other, Majerus said.

The problem with the dam near Kathryn is that it was built before state safety standards were in place. The Clausen Springs Dam, which is tucked within rare wooded rolling hills in the area, is fed by a creek that collects runoff from 100 square miles of mostly flat farmland in southeast North Dakota.

The earthen dam is about 50 feet high and about 700 feet long and holds back a lake about the size of 50 football fields. It was built in 1967 for fishing and recreation — not for flood control, said Harlan Opdahl, a Barnes County commissioner.

Kathryn residents were evacuated for a few days last April after flooding began eroding the dam's spillway a few miles from town. Trucks hauled in clay and rocks to fortify the earthen spillway and North Dakota National Guard soldiers in helicopters dropped more than 100 one-ton sandbags to help shore it up.

The little town was spared extensive flood damage but it led some to wonder whether it was worth spending big money protect it. State and local governments eventually raised $3 million "by pulling a few strings" to replace the dam but the work may come too late, the mayor said.

"We got the money but all that's been done is talk," Majerus said. "I guess that's the way bureaucracy works."

State officials say it took time to scrape together money for work and no one believed the area would be hit with flooding two consecutive years. The town, founded in 1900, never had a flood threat until last year.

"It's rare to have flooding there one year, let alone back to back," said Sando, of the North Dakota Water Commission. "There was no way of predicting it could happen again."

No one appears more frustrated than Shirley Sivertson, 74, who along with her husband, Sanford, 81, live on the edge of town. Their home is the first in the path of the water if the dam breaks. Last year, the couple evacuated in just a few minutes and returned to the home a few days later to find water in their basement.

Shirley Sivertson said the couple doesn't want to have to flee again this year.

"We shouldn't have to be worrying about all this business with the dam," she said. "My husband has a bad heart, two stents, a balloon and a pacemaker — we don't need to be moving nothing."

"This whole town is sitting on pins and needles," she said. "If the governor was standing in front of me right now, I'd tell him: 'Get with it man! We're just a town of 55 people but we're just as dang gone important as anybody else.'"

A new dam designed to handle major flooding is expected to be built later this year, Sando said. Jon Kelsch, the state Water Commission's construction chief, said it was a challenge to redesign the dam with only $3 million. Initial designs were overbuilt and too expensive, but a no-frills design that will do the job has finally been crafted, he said.

Opdahl has advocated breaching the dam by cutting a channel through it for a controlled release of water until a permanent fix can be made. But sportsmen in the area balked, he said.

"I think we should have siphoned it off until we figured out a plan then we wouldn't be in this situation," Opdahl said. "We can always fill it back up and stock it with fish."

Opdahl and others believe that a valve on an outflow pipe used to drain the dam has been tampered with in the past to keep the lake level high for better angling. The drain is now completely open and is being monitored daily, Opdahl said.

That doesn't make residents worry less, or diminish frustration that their neighbors in Fargo and Moorhead seem to get so much more help than they do.

"They've been worrying about Fargo and Minnesota instead of fooling with us," Opdahl said.

Sandbags delivered ahead of expected Fargo flood
By DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press Writer
16 March 2010

FARGO, N.D. – Marc Shannon says the prospect of using a sandbag wall to protect his Fargo home from the rising Red River doesn't seem so alarming. Not after last year, when the city dealt with record flooding and Shannon had to maneuver around a 10-foot-high clay dike that cut his house off from the outside world.

"We're all feeling pretty calm compared to last year," Shannon said Monday, while preparing to melt ice in his backyard to make room for a sandbag dike. "Without that clay dike in the streets this year, this is going to be a walk in the park."

Police escorted convoys of flatbed trucks carrying piles of sandbags into neighborhoods Monday as the cities of Fargo in eastern North Dakota and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., went into flood-fighting mode. The Red River is expected to crest Saturday about 20 feet above the flood stage, meaning the rising waters flowing over the river's banks could threaten nearby houses, roads and parks.

Last year, about 100 homes in the area were damaged and thousands of people were evacuated after the Red River rose above the flood stage for a record 61 days and crested twice. Officials say they are better prepared this year for flooding thanks to early stockpiling of sandbags and the building of stronger levees across the region.

"This year, the dike we'll have to build will be 3 feet less than last year," Shannon said. "It's manageable."

Miles of clay levees, more than 1 million sandbags and portable wall systems will be used to help protect an area of about 200,000 people in Cass County, N.D., and Clay County, Minn. Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said a handful of residents outside the city left their houses mainly because they don't want to be stranded by overland flooding.

"Everybody has to understand that this is for real," Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said after a briefing with city and county officials.

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Pawlenty declared a state of emergency Monday in 28 counties affected by potential flooding across western, southern, central and eastern parts of the state. The order activated the National Guard to help with flood preparations and provide emergency relief.

Fargo resident Karry Hoganson was chopping down an evergreen tree in his neighbor's backyard to help make room for a sandbag dike. When he bought his house in 2002, Hoganson said historical figures showed he would be sandbagging once every 10 years. But it's been more like every other year, he said.

"I chose to live on the river. I'm not looking for sympathy," he said. "I bought it for the view. I love it here."

Palates of sandbags lined streets and cul-de-sacs in several neighborhoods of higher-end homes along the river in south Fargo. Dan Sholy, who was hired to help unload the trucks, said some people have been clearing out their backyards to make room for the sandbags, which weigh about 20 pounds each.

Over the next few days, residents will stack the sandbags — in Hoganson's neighborhood the dike will be 9 feet wide and 3 feet high — in an attempt to keep the river's waters away from their homes.

"Right now they're are getting everything all flagged and marked for the dikes," Sholy said. "We'll have volunteers coming in tomorrow so there's going to be lot of action here."

Fargo resisted FEMA recommendation to evacuate
National Review - AP
April 2, 2009

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — With floodwaters rising around them, Fargo officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency faced an agonizing decision: Should they order a mandatory evacuation of the entire city?

FEMA thought the best course of action was to evacuate and not leave anything to chance. Fargo officials disagreed, saying they knew what it would take to hold back the Red River. The conversation turned heated at times, and Fargo ultimately won.  Now that the Red River is receding and leaving only relatively minor damage, that decision looks smart. The city began returning to normal Wednesday as people went back to work, stores reopened and the river dipped to only slightly above 37 feet.

At the height of the flood, Fargo's levees held back most of the deluge, and allowing residents to stay enabled them to fill sandbags, patrol for dike leaks and monitor pumps to keep water out of homes.

But the episode demonstrates the kind of clash that can unfold between federal and local governments in an era when FEMA is intent on avoiding another failure of Hurricane Katrina proportions. It was also perhaps an inevitable result of federal bureaucrats coming head-to-head with the pride of a local community.  In this case, Fargo stood up to the government and won, showing a sturdy resolve that was apparent throughout the flood-fighting effort.

Fargo leaders including Mayor Dennis Walaker repeatedly vowed to beat back the river, to "go down swinging" as they put it. City Commissioner Tim Mahoney even ended a briefing Monday by saying, "The spirit of Fargo: Evacuation is not an option."

FEMA's response was more measured, warning of an epic disaster if the Red River burst past the levees and swamped the city of nearly 100,000 people.  The agency could point to Grand Forks, 70 miles to the north, where the same river ravaged much of the community 12 years ago. In that case, most of the 60,000 residents were forced to flee after floodwaters covered the city and a fire destroyed several buildings in the heart of downtown.  Grand Forks waged a furious sandbagging battle similar to Fargo's effort, but it was not enough. The river swiftly surged past crest projections, giving the city little time to prepare.

In Fargo, volunteers built levees to contain the river provided it did not rise above 43 feet. The water topped out at nearly 41 feet.  Fargo officials said they had a better levee system in place than Grand Forks, making the comparison irrelevant.

"You can't place a price on human life, and if you're going to err in any way, it's got to be" to save lives, said Mike Hall, FEMA's coordinating officer on the ground in North Dakota. "If it had gone to 43 feet, that's ... over the top of the levees. How do you protect for that? That's the sort of healthy discussion you have to have."

The fact that Fargo residents were even around to witness the flooding was the result of a meeting Friday in Fargo among city, state and federal officials. Mahoney, the city commissioner, described the discussion as "heated," but said he and the mayor made an impassioned argument to dissuade the government on the evacuation issue.

"We had some losses we could take. We knew that," he said. "We're organized. We know what we're doing. We know our contingencies."

Walaker said the city faced "an awful lot of pressure" to evacuate.

Evacuations are expensive, logistically difficult and endlessly second-guessed. If a city stays and fights, and the dikes fail, blame will come as fast as the rushing water. If a city evacuates and the dikes hold, angry residents may be reluctant to leave next time.

"He certainly knew he was on the hot seat either way," Hall said. "If it had been 43 feet and people would have drowned, then they'd be all after him for that. ... He felt what they had in place could meet the challenge.

Ben Smilowitz is in charge of a group called the Disaster Accountability Project that was formed in 2007 to monitor disaster-relief efforts by FEMA in the aftermath of Katrina. He said the decision to evacuate is ultimately up to the local government, and that "a decision overruling a local government is rare. ... It would come from much higher in the food chain than FEMA."

He said FEMA is there to provide guidance and supplies for disaster-stricken communities regardless of how strongly federal authorities disagree with local governments.

"The last thing FEMA wants to do is play political games with reimbursement dollars, because that could discourage local governments from making the best decisions out of worry they won't get reimbursed," Smilowitz said.

Acting FEMA Administrator Nancy Ward, who came to Fargo to witness the threat, declined requests for an interview.

In a written response to questions from The Associated Press, FEMA spokesman Terry Monrad said the agency did discuss evacuation with state and local officials, but "the decision to evacuate any municipality is ultimately made by local officials."

In the end, Fargo leaders and FEMA officials emerged from the dispute on good terms. Walaker praised the efforts of FEMA and every other agency, and the government provided important on-the-ground assistance.

Hall said he was not worried that Fargo's decision might embolden local officials to disregard FEMA in future disasters. He said Fargo officials put a lot of time and thought into their decisions.

Associated Press Writer Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report.

Red River Goes Below Flood Stage in Fargo
Filed at 12:39 p.m. ET
May 20, 2009

FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- It's been a long time dropping.

The Red River, which rose above its 18-foot flood stage in Fargo on March 20, finally dropped to 17.9 feet at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday after 61 days, the National Weather Service said.

That's a record time for flood stage in the city, the weather service said. It was expected to fall slowly to 17.5 feet over the next week.

''It's long time, but we made it through to a happy ending,'' hydrologist Mike Lukes said.

Residents of Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., scrambled to save their homes, using millions of sandbags to fight off two crests on the Red River -- the first at a record 40.82 feet and the second at 34 feet.

Flooding caused by heavy rain and snow led to a statewide disaster in March and April, closing roads across North Dakota and forcing some residents out of their homes. The flooding was linked to the deaths of at least three people and thousands of farm and ranch animals.

Forty-one North Dakota counties and three reservations are covered under a presidential disaster declaration.

The weather service said the 61-day flood in Fargo was seven days longer than the number of days the Red was above flood stage in the city in 2006.

Letter to the editor:
Flooding is connected to poor drainage decisions
Published Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It’s no surprise that a lot of people are currently thinking about how to deal with the problem of flooding. Causes include excess rain and snow, a random melt and the growing problem of drainage. A growing problem because it seems that everyone wants water moved off his or her land quickly, no matter what the downstream effects may be.

In fact, drainage is one of the leading causes of increased runoff in the Red River Valley since statehood. The Waffle Report produced by the Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota this spring concludes that the Red River Valley has lost “about 80 percent of the basin wetlands to agriculture in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

That same conclusion can be applied to the Devils Lake Basin. We started with approximately 569,000 acres of wetlands in the upper basin of the lake. Subtracting the remaining 210,000 wetland acres indicates that about 350,000 acres of sloughs have been drained. The water that those wetlands once held now flows quickly into Devils Lake.

How much runoff could result from about 350,000 acres of drained wetlands? How would it compare to 680,000 acre feet, the amount of water that Tim Heisler, Ramsey County emergency manager, predicts will reach the lake this spring?

Predicting a Devils Lake overflow, however, is premature. The lake now (before runoff) holds about 2,925,000 acre feet. At overflow it would hold about 5,302,612 acre feet. That means the lake is slightly more than half full.

Odd, though, isn’t it? No one blames drainers for flooding someone else’s farmland around the lake and no one is considering using the Waffle approach to restore wetlands in the upper basin. Until that happens solutions will be Band-Aid dikes, and drainage problems will continue to grow until dikes will no longer contain the excess.

Richard Betting
Valley City, N.D.

DOT, patrol detouring traffic on I-29 near Fargo
The Jamestown Sun
Published Friday, March 27, 2009
The North Dakota Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol began detouring traffic on Interstate 29 in the Fargo area at 2:30 p.m. for improved flow of traffic and flood preparation.

Southbound I-29 traffic will be detoured to Highway 200A near Hillsboro at Exit ramp 100. The detour moves traffic on Hwy 200A to N.D. Highway 18 to ND Highway 46 near Leonard back to I-29 east of Kindred.

Northbound I-29 traffic will be detoured to N.D. Highway 46 to N.D. Highway 32 to N.D. highway 200 near Finley back to I-29 east of Mayville. For Red River crossing on I-29 motorists should continue south on I-29 to South Dakota Highway 10 to Minnesota 28.

All travelers are encouraged to monitor road conditions, reduce traffic speeds as weather conditions occur and use caution while traveling. For up-to-date road information, call 511 from any type of phone or go to the Web site: for road and weather conditions.

Fargo Neighborhood Evacuated as Waters Rise
March 28, 2009

FARGO, N.D. — Along the banks of this city, the Red River surpassed its highest level in history Friday morning, forcing the emergency evacuation of one neighborhood before dawn and leading city leaders here, once cheerfully upbeat, to sound far more dire.

“We do not want to give up yet,” Mayor Dennis Walaker of Fargo said after receiving yet another piece of gruesome news. Forecasters now believe the Red River will go right on rising, and by Saturday overtake the record set here more than a century ago by two feet or even more, much higher than anyone here had earlier believed possible.

“We want to go down swinging — if we go down,” the mayor said, as he urged his city to summon the energy to build the dikes that protect it yet another foot higher by Friday night.

“I’m going to be devastated if we lose,” said Mr. Walaker, who had, only a few days ago, expressed optimism, even certainty, that Fargo, a city of 90,000 and North Dakota’s most populous, would be fine. Other bleary-eyed city officials described the mood of the place by Friday afternoon as “on high alert now.” By Friday morning, some hospitals here had transferred patients to other facilities miles away, and nursing homes had sent residents to relatives’ homes on high ground. Major roads here were closed, to allow trucks carrying more loads of sandbags to reach levees as fast as possible.

And after about 100 people, including some residents of a nursing home, in one Fargo neighborhood and a large swath of neighboring Moorhead, Minn., were forced to evacuate Thursday night, officials on Friday ordered residents from about 150 more Fargo homes to leave just after 2 a.m. The authorities said they found a leak in a levee near those homes, and were racing to repair it. Residents, meanwhile, could be seen trudging out by foot, bearing belongings in bone-cold temperatures, local news reports said.

In Moorhead, a city of 34,700 just across the Red River, residents of more than 2,660 homes were asked to evacuate by midday Friday, officials there said. Water could be seen creeping along some streets in that city, though the city’s mayor, Mark Voxland, said no dikes had been overtaken. At city hall and the local courthouse, workers were carting archives and case files out of basements. And some residents complained that they could not find additional sandbags, and came searching for some at the police department.

“I would rather be criticized for erring on the side of safety than the reverse,” Mr. Voxland said Friday afternoon of the decision to ask people to leave.

Ryan Sather, a resident, stood in short sleeves as he carted all of the contents of his house into a moving truck he had backed up to his porch.

“They’ve raised the crest level prediction three separate times, and I think what we know at this point is that nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” he said. A few blocks away, neighbors were struggling to pile up sandbags to create a new levee to slow slushy waters. On Mr. Sather’s corner, water pooled in the snow near a storm sewer, bubbling far higher, he said, than it had only hours earlier. “Where’s that going to be by nightfall?”

While flooding conditions have threatened much of North Dakota and parts of western Minnesota, and some rural communities are already under water, all eyes on Friday were on this city and on Moorhead. Some 1,700 members of the National Guard had been called in to add more sand to the area’s already enormous dikes, but even weather forecasters seemed at a loss to be sure what might come next.

“This is definitely ground zero right now,“ said Patrick Slattery, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. “Once you get here, into predictions above the levels we have ever seen before, you’re taking about unbroken ground. Even we don’t know for certain what’s going to happen.“

People here found themselves facing added challenges given the singular dimensions of this flood. Once the river crests on Saturday, it is expected to stay at those swelled, highest levels for several days. Dikes that hold for a few hours may be in trouble in a matter of days, the authorities here say.

The temperature here, too — 10 degrees on Friday morning with a wind chill reported at 4 degree below zero — tested the stamina of thousands of volunteers. It also led some to worry about the condition of the piled sandbags, items some here described unhappily as behaving more like “frozen turkeys” or big rocks. Would sandbags slide and give way on frozen ground? Would frigid sandbags allow water to flow through rather than holding it back?

The authorities went so far as to set aside 10 percent of the three million sandbags filled here in the last six days to store in warm locations — in case they are suddenly needed to fill spots where dikes fail.  Still, some authorities said the dropping temperatures might provide relief. Colder temperatures, one Fargo official said, slowed the flow of the river water and slowed the streams that were feeding it. Indeed, the official said, the water had risen more slowly in recent hours than it had a day or two ago.

In Fargo, a city where residents continued to offer applause at public meetings for their political leaders even as the news grew worse and worse this week, tempers were clearly tested by late Thursday. Kristy Fremstad, who owns rental property in Fargo, pleaded with city officials to add sandbags to the dike near her land.

“We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting,“ she tearfully told city commissioners at an emergency meeting, (also attended by Gov. John Hoeven, Senator Byron L. Dorgan and Representative Earl Pomeroy). “I need some help.“

Schools and many businesses were closed. And some people in between the city’s primary dike system and a second set of newly created emergency dikes were advised to evacuate. Volunteers, now days into their work, went right on filling sandbags at the Fargodome all through the night.

Across the bulging river, in Moorhead, residents who had been advised to evacuate found themselves on roads jammed with other cars, (and, in some cases, still covered in snow). The congested streets led some here, including Mayor Walaker, to worry about how a broader evacuation plan, if one were required, would play out here.  Adding to the complications of such a concept, local officials acknowledged, was the fact that no one could be sure where the dikes might break or what roads — given rising waters and falling snow — might be passable.

In some rural areas to the south of Fargo and elsewhere, water had already filled homes. White caps, one law enforcement officer said, could be seen around what had once been farm fields. Rescues were made with boats and helicopters, even as other residents, surrounded on all sides by water, insisted on staying put.  Around Bismarck, the state capital, flooded neighborhoods sat empty as demolition crews battled dangerous ice jams on the Missouri with explosives. Water levels had dropped some there, offering hope.

“Our biggest concern is an ice jam in the river just 10 miles north of Bismarck, which we’re hoping does not dislodge,“ said Bill Wocken, that city’s administrator. “An ice jam is kind of like my teenage daughter. Sometimes there is just no way to predict what they’ll do next.“

In Grand Forks, which was devastated by flooding in 1997, two of the three bridges leading in and out of town were already closed. But city officials seemed hopeful that a $409 million Army Corps of Engineers flood protection project, completed two years ago, would save the city from the Red River this time.

“We remain cautious, vigilant and watchful,“ said Kevin Dean, a city spokesman.

'Amazing' Australian floodwaters enter new towns
Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:03 am ET

MELBOURNE (AFP) – Surging floodwaters broke levees in disaster-hit Australia on Monday to inundate more properties in the southeast, as residents sandbagged homes against the spiralling crisis.  Swollen rivers in the southeastern state of Victoria have created a flood zone measuring an estimated 90 kilometres (56 miles) long and 40 kilometres wide, the State Emergency Service said.

"This area has seen unprecedented flooding," SES spokesman Kevin Monk told AFP. "This is just amazing."

As the floodwaters rushed towards the Murray River, evacuation alerts were issued late Sunday and early Monday for the small communities of Pental Island and Murrabit West, home to about 400 people each.  In an emergency alert the SES said that levees around Murrabit West were failing, warning that the area would be inundated in the next 12 hours.

"They are being flooded now," Monk told AFP. "It's across properties. If they haven't sandbagged them, there may be some impacts on people's housing."

The Victoria floods stem from La Nina-provoked torrential rains which hit the state mid-January and followed weeks of widespread floods to the north that killed at least 30 people and devastated mining and farming in Queensland.  Prime Minister Julia Gillard again called on companies to boost their donations to the rebuilding effort, with infrastructure repairs and help for businesses and families estimated to cost some Aus$20 billion ($19.8 billion).

Champion American cyclist Lance Armstrong, who has been in Australia for the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, did his part, leading some 2,500 people on a Queensland Ride Relief fundraiser around Brisbane.  The seven-time Tour de France winner praised Queenslanders for the way they had rallied after the disaster, saying he had heard that so many people had driven into Brisbane to help clean up they caused traffic jams.

"You know what that is? That's a whole lot of heroes the whole world needs to pay attention to and copy that," he said.

"I can tell you, having lived in the United States and having watched (Hurricane) Katrina closely, there were no traffic jams going into New Orleans. So for you guys to step up like that, is unbelievable."

As Queensland begins the massive recovery phase, Victoria is dealing with a record-breaking deluge which has so far affected more than 1,700 properties in the rural northwest of the state.  Emergency officials have been preparing for potential flooding along the Murray River -- a vital lifeline in the southeast which had been hard hit by a recent protracted drought -- since record rainfalls in mid-January.  The regional centre of Swan Hill, with a population of about 10,000, was bracing for floodwaters to peak on Thursday or Friday with residents frantically sandbagging but officials expecting the levee to hold.

Floods pour into Brisbane; 20,000 homes in danger
By JOHN PYE and KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press
12 January 2011

BRISBANE, Australia – Floodwaters poured into the empty downtown of Australia's third-largest city Wednesday after tearing a deadly path across the northeast, swamping neighborhoods in what could be Brisbane's most devastating floods in a century.

The surging, muddy waters reached the tops of traffic lights in some parts of Brisbane, and the city's mayor said at least 20,000 homes were in danger of being inundated.

At least 22 people have died and more than 40 are missing across Australia's northeastern state of Queensland since drenching rains that began in November sent swollen rivers spilling over their banks, flooding an area larger than France and Germany combined. Brisbane, the state capital with a population of 2 million, is the latest city to face down the waters, and officials expect the death toll to rise.

On Wednesday, Brisbane residents who had spent two days preparing took cover on higher ground while others scrambled to move their prized possessions to the top floors of their homes. Some stacked furniture on their roofs.

The Brisbane River is expected to reach its highest point on Thursday. After days of bad news in which figures were constantly being revised, the Bureau of Meteorology late Wednesday delivered a small and rare positive forecast — the floodwaters would crest about a foot (30 centimeters) lower than earlier thought.

If correct, the new forecast meant the waters would not reach the depth of 1974 floods that swept the city. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the news was welcome, but of little comfort.

"This is still a major event, the city is much bigger, much more populated and has many parts under flood that didn't even exist in 1974," she said. "We are still looking at an event which will cripple parts of our city."

The dragged-out crisis escalated when a violent storm sent a 26-foot (eight meter), fast-moving torrent — described as an "inland instant tsunami" — crashing through the city of Toowoomba and smaller towns to the west of Brisbane on Monday. Twelve people were killed in that flash flood. Late Wednesday, Bligh said the number of missing had been revised down to 43.

"This is a truly dire set of circumstances," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

The Brisbane River broke its banks on Tuesday and was continuing its rise Wednesday — partly controlled by a huge dam upstream that has had its floodgates opened because it is brimming after weeks of rain across the state.

Water levels were expected to stay at peak levels until at least Saturday, but many people won't be able to access their homes for several days beyond that, Bligh said.

The flooding has transfixed Australia and is shaping up to become the nation's most expensive disaster, with an estimated price tag of at least $5 billion. The relentless waters have shut down Queensland state's crucial coal industry and ruined crops across vast swaths of farmland.

Brisbane's office buildings stood empty Wednesday with the normally bustling central business district transformed into a watery ghost town. Most roads around the city were closed, and people moved about in kayaks, rowboats and even on surfboards. One of the city's sports stadiums, which hosts international rugby games, was flooded with muddy, chest-deep water.

Boats torn from their moorings floated down the rising river along with massive amounts of debris. A popular waterside restaurant's pontoon was swept away by the current and floated downstream. Officials said they would probably have to sink a barge that serves as an entertainment venue, to stop it from breaking free and becoming a floating torpedo.

Officials opened three more evacuation centers on Wednesday, and Newman said there was now room for 16,000 people to take shelter. Officials have urged people to get to higher ground and keep off the streets unless absolutely necessary.

Energex, the city's main power company, said it would switch off electricity to some parts of the city starting Wednesday as a precaution against electrocution. Almost 70,000 homes were without power across Queensland by Wednesday afternoon, Bligh said.

"I know that this is going to be very difficult for people," Bligh said. "Can I just stress: Electricity and water do not mix. We would have catastrophic situations if we didn't shut down power."

Darren Marchant spent all day moving furniture and other household goods to the top floor of his home, near the river in the low-lying Brisbane suburb of Yeronga, which is expected to be inundated. He and two neighbors watched in awe as dozens of expensive boats and pontoons drifted past.

"We were watching all kinds of debris floating down the river — one of the (neighbor's) pontoons just floated off," he said Wednesday. "It was amazing."

For weeks, the flooding had been a slow-motion disaster, devastating wide swaths of farmland and small towns. On Monday, the crisis took a sudden, violent turn, with a cloudburst sending a raging torrent down the Lockyer Valley west of Brisbane. Houses were washed from their foundations and cars tossed about like bath toys in what Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson described as "an inland instant tsunami."

Hundreds had to be rescued by helicopter Tuesday and emergency vehicles were moving into the worst-hit parts of the valley on Wednesday. Bligh warned that the death toll would likely rise as rescue officials gained access to the devastated areas.

In the Lockyer Valley town of Grantham, entire houses that had been swept off their foundations sat in sodden heaps of jumbled debris. Waters that had submerged a railway bridge receded, exposing an avalanche of twisted wreckage caught in its foundation: furniture, a "for sale" sign, a child's swing set, even a dead cow.

The city of Ipswich, home to about 15,000 people, was swamped Wednesday by the water heading Brisbane's way. By the afternoon, 3,000 properties had been inundated, and 1,100 people had fled to evacuation centers, Mayor Paul Pisasale said. Video from the scene showed horses swimming through the brown waters, pausing to rest their heads on the roof of a house — the only dry spot they could reach.

Steph Stewardson, a graphic designer, said there was an exodus from Brisbane's downtown around lunchtime Tuesday with people streaming out of skyscrapers as the river broke its banks. Stewardson, 40, hopped in her car and crossed the swollen river to collect her dog, Boo, from daycare while waters started covering the boardwalk stretching along its banks.

Stewardson took shelter in her house and plans to stay there — for now.

"I'm about 800 meters (half a mile) from the river on a hill, so I think it's going to be OK," she told The Associated Press.

Scores missing in tsunami-like flood in Australia
11 January 2011

BRISBANE, Australia – Greg Kowald was driving through the center of Toowoomba when a terrifying, tsunami-like wall of water roared through the streets of the northeast Australian city.

Office windows exploded, cars careened into trees and bobbed in the churning brown water like corks. The deluge washed away bridges and sidewalks; people desperately clung to power poles to survive. Before it was over, the flash flood left at least 10 dead and 78 missing.

"The water was literally leaping, six or 10 feet into the air, through creeks and over bridges and into parks," Kowald, a 53-year-old musician, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "There was nowhere to escape, even if there had been warnings. There was just a sea of water about a kilometer (half a mile) wide."

The violent surge in Toowoomba brought the overall death toll from weeks of flooding in Queensland state to 20, a sudden acceleration in a crisis that had been unfolding gradually with swollen rivers overflowing their banks and inundating towns while moving toward the ocean. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said there were "grave fears" for at least 18 of those missing.

The high waters headed next to Australia's third-largest city, Brisbane, where up to 9,000 homes were expected to be swamped. The Brisbane River overflowed its banks Tuesday and officials warned that dozens of low-lying neighborhoods and parts of downtown could be inundated in coming days.

But nothing downstream was expected to be as fierce as the flash flood that struck Toowoomba on Monday. It was sparked by a freak storm — up to 6 inches (150 millimeters) fell in half an hour.

"There was water coming down everywhere in biblical proportions," Toowoomba council member Joe Ramia told the AP.

Ramia, 63, was driving downtown when the flash flood struck. He parked his car and dashed on foot for higher ground, keeping an eye on the carnage unfolding below: Cars transformed into scrap metal as they were flung into an elevated railway line, giant metal industrial bins tossed about as if made of paper, a man clinging desperately to a power pole as the relentless tide surged around him.

Ramia watched as a rescue official pushed through the churning water and yanked the man to safety. Others, including five children, were not as lucky, and were swept to their deaths.

"You were powerless to do a thing," said Ramia, a lifelong resident of Toowoomba. "While we can rebuild, you can't replace people. ... I've never seen anything like this."

The raging water was strong enough to rip houses off their foundations. Leroy Shephard, who lives in the town of Grantham, east of Toowoomba, was inside his home when the flood struck.

"You could feel the whole house just pop up off its stumps, turn around, and go — for a 100 meters (330 feet) or something down my backyard," Shephard told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

He and his family spent five hours on the house's roof waiting for the waters to drop.

"It's not a good feeling having the floorboards under your feet just ripple, the whole house just ripple and crack, and watching rooms just disappear," he said.

Emergency services officers plucked more than 40 people from houses isolated overnight by the torrent that hit the Lockyer Valley, and thousands were being evacuated. In one small community in the path of the floodwaters, Forest Hill, the entire population of about 300 was being airlifted to safety in military helicopters, Bligh said.

Search and rescue efforts were hampered by more driving rain, though the bad weather was easing and Bligh said the search would get easier Wednesday.

Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman said authorities were preparing for flooding affecting about 15,000 people in 80 suburbs.

The city is protected by a large dam built upstream after floods devastated downtown in 1974. But the reservoir was full, and officials had no choice but to release water that would cause low-level flooding in the city, Newman said. The alternative was a much worse torrent.

Steph Stewardson, a Brisbane graphic designer, said there was an exodus in a downtown area around lunchtime Tuesday when the river that goes through the city broke its banks. Stewardson, 40, hopped in her car and crossed the swollen river to collect her dog Boo from daycare while waters started covering the boardwalk stretching along its banks.

Stewardson took shelter in her house, and plans to stay there — for now.

"I'm about 800 meters (half a mile) from the river on a hill, so I think it's going to be OK," she told the AP.

Queensland has been in the grip of its worst flooding for more than two weeks, after tropical downpours covered an area the size of France and Germany combined. Entire towns have been swamped, more than 200,000 people affected, and the coal industry and farming have virtually shut down.

"The power of nature can still be a truly frightening power and we've seen that on display in this country," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson described the events Monday as "an inland instant tsunami."

Forecasters said more flash floods could occur through the week.

Deputy Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said rescue efforts were concentrated on towns between Toowoomba and Brisbane, including hardest-hit Murphy's Creek and Grantham, where about 30 people sought shelter in a school isolated by the floodwaters.

The floods reached a second state Tuesday, with about 4,500 people stranded by high waters in bordering New South Wales, officials said, though the situation was not yet as dire as in Queensland.

Bligh said last week the cost of the floods could be as high as $5 billion, the latest figure available.

So soon after the big bash in Sydney for New Year 2011...opposite of fireworks across this vast country, to another of its its other big cities, Brisbane...

Australian city cut off by floods braces for more
January 4, 2011

ROCKHAMPTON, Australia – Floods that have cut air, rail and road links to an Australian coastal city are now threatening its sewage plant, and waters are still expected to rise another few feet before peaking Wednesday.

Residents of Rockhampton made their way in boats through waters that reached waist-high in some areas Tuesday but were warned not to wade into the them since snakes and crocodiles could be lurking.

A huge inland sea spawned by more than a week of heavy rain across Queensland state is making its way along the Fitzroy River toward the ocean — and Rockhampton lies in the way. As waters drain, the city of 75,000 people is expected to see flood levels rise another few feet (half-meter) by Wednesday.

The river has already burst its banks, inundating houses and businesses in waters ranging from a few inches (centimeters) to waist-deep. Up to 500 people who live along the river have evacuated their homes. Air and rail links to the city were cut and only one main road remained open.

Adding to the woes, Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter said Tuesday the floodwaters were threatening Rockhampton's sewage treatment plants and officials may seek to discharge some effluent directly into the swollen river system. He said this would only occur away from the city, and that the discharged sewage would be highly diluted and would not pose a health risk.

Rockhampton is the latest of 22 cities and towns in Queensland to be swamped by floods that began building just before Christmas — the worst effects of an unusually wet summer in the tropical region. No one has died in Rockhampton, but swollen rivers and flooding have killed 10 people in Queensland since late November, police say.

Officials have said the flooded area covers the size of France and Germany combined and 200,000 people have been affected. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a condolence message and said Washington was ready to help if needed.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by these floods, especially the families of the victims, and with all the people of Australia," Clinton said in a statement distributed by consular officials.

Wendy White, who owns a clothing alterations shop in Rockhampton, said she was worried about her merchandise and equipment as the waters rise.

"We've taken everything about two feet up off the floor ... my machines are above that and then everything, all my stock is stacked on that," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "So it'd be a case of, if the water does come in, we'll have to mop up before we can set up to start trading again."

Authorities have warned residents to stay out of floodwaters for their own safety, saying the biggest risk is from fast-moving currents powerful enough to sweep cars from roadways. At least two people have drowned after being swept away in their cars.

Mayor Carter has also said residents have reported seeing higher than usual numbers of snakes, as the animals move around looking for dry ground. He has also noted that saltwater crocodiles have been spotted from time to time in the Fitzroy River.

"We do not think they are a risk to public safety if people keep out of the waters, but if people do enter the waters their safety cannot be guaranteed," Carter told The Australian newspaper.

Animal welfare worker Wendy Hilcher said fears about snakes and crocodiles were hampering her group's efforts to rescue pets left behind by people who had left their homes in flooded areas of the city.

"It's not just the safety aspect of getting to these places, it's what's in the water itself," said Hilcher, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "If it gets too dangerous, we have to get out of there."

A military cargo plane landed in a city north of Rockhampton on Monday carrying food, water, medical supplies and other items such as diapers to keep the city stocked with necessities. The goods were trucked south to the city, or carried on barges. Further flights would continue as needed, acting Defense Minister Warren Snowdon said. Two navy helicopters were on standby to help.

Other supplies were being brought by sea from areas south of Rockhampton, where regular supply routes may be closed for days to come.

Many stores and businesses in dry parts of the city remained open. Power supplies were being severed to inundated areas for safety reasons, officials said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said the cost associated with the flooding will likely reach many hundreds of millions of dollars, and has announced relief funding worth millions.

Rains have eased, and water levels have been dropping in some towns in Queensland. Across the state, some 1,000 people are living in evacuation centers, and it may be a month before the floodwaters dry up completely.

Food, supplies flown to flood-stranded Aussie city
January 3, 2011

BRISBANE, Australia – A military flight rushed Monday to restock an Australian city before it was cut off by floodwaters that have turned a huge swath of the Outback into a lake, while police confirmed two more deaths in the crisis.

Drenching rain that started before Christmas has flooded an area the size of France and Germany combined in northeastern Queensland state. Rivers are overflowing and at least 22 towns and cities in the farming region are inundated.  In the coastal city of Rockhampton, waters from the still-swelling Fitzroy River closed the airport and cut the main highway to the state capital of Brisbane. Scores of families abandoned their homes for relief centers on high ground.

By Monday night, floodwaters had inundated the last route into the city, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said.

"Rockhampton is now completely stranded — a town of 75,000 people — no airport, rail or road," Bligh told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Residents emptied supermarket shelves of food and bottled water in recent days as they stocked up to reduce the need to get around in waist-deep waters.  Acting Defense Minister Warren Snowdon said a C-130 military cargo plane would fly to a town north of Rockhampton on Monday carrying food, medical supplies and other items that would then be trucked to the stricken city.

Authorities have warned the Fitzroy will continue rising until late Tuesday or early Wednesday local time.  Mayor Brad Carter has said about 40 percent of the city could be affected by the surging waters, and residents could be forced to wait at least two weeks before returning home.  State authorities say about 200,000 people have been affected by the floods, Australia's worst in a decade, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday extended emergency relief to those affected, including low-interest loans to farmers to begin cleaning up and get their businesses running again.

"This is a major natural disaster, and recovery will take a significant amount of time," Gillard said. The damage could ultimately amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, she told reporters.

Three people have died in the flooding since Saturday, though police in Queensland state say seven other people have drowned separately involving swollen rivers and water accidents since tropical deluges began in late November.  Chief Superintendent Alistair Dawson said the latest victim was a man who drowned Monday when the car he was traveling in was washed off a flooded causeway in the town of Aramac, in central Queensland.  Earlier Monday, police said they had recovered the body of a man who was last seen Saturday when his small boat was swamped by raging waters in a different part of the state.

The rains that started the flooding have eased, and water levels have been dropping in some towns. But officials said about 1,000 people were living in evacuation centers across Queensland, and it may be a month before the floodwaters dry up completely. 

Flood Toll Reaches 1,000 in India as Thousands More Await Rescue
June 22, 2013

NEW DELHI — Flash floods and landslides in northern India have killed at least 1,000 people in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in the past week, an official said Saturday, and with thousands missing or stranded the toll was expected to rise.

The official, Vijay Bahuguna, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, confirmed the latest toll in a meeting with reporters. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told the Indian news media on Saturday that 40,000 people were still stranded, and he described the floods as a “national crisis.”

Most of the stranded were people on a pilgrimage known as Char Dham Yatra, which takes Hindus to four of the holiest shrines in Uttarakhand between May and November.

To aid rescue efforts in narrow mountainous valleys at altitudes as high as 11,000 feet above sea level, members of the Indian military have been pressed into service. By Saturday, the rivers and streams that run through the state had receded, but the floods had destroyed roads, bridges, electrical poles and communication networks.

More than 40 helicopters were being used to rescue pilgrims from remote mountainous areas, according to Indian officials, but the terrain hampered the operations. A rescue helicopter crashed Friday while trying to evacuate pilgrims trapped in a village near Kedarnath in Uttarakhand. The pilot was injured and was being treated at a hospital, police officials told the news agency Press Trust of India.

Families throughout India were frantically trying to track down their missing relatives.

“Four of my friends, who are priests, are missing,” said Naresh Kukreti, 34, a priest at the Kedarnath temple, one of the holiest shrines of Hinduism. “We don’t know whether they are alive or dead.”

Mr. Kukreti said Saturday that after the ritual evening prayer last Sunday, he had been filled with unease. “It had been raining for two days, and fewer pilgrims were visiting the temple,” he said. “I had a strange feeling something terrible was about to happen.”

After prayers, Mr. Kukreti retired to his modest quarters. “Suddenly a deafening noise shook everything,” he said. “It felt like an earthquake.”

Mr. Kukreti and about 800 pilgrims sought refuge in the stone temple, which was built in the eighth century 11,759 feet above sea level and dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.

“Within minutes, a river of black water and big stones followed us into the temple,” he said by phone after returning to his home village, Tailagram, in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand.

The temple survived the assault, but when the water receded after a cold night of prayer, Mr. Kukreti found himself standing among piles of dead pilgrims. “Everywhere I looked I saw dead men, women and children,” he said.

Most of the buildings around the temple were destroyed, and the town of Kedarnath, which has grown around the temple, was submerged. After braving cold, hunger and grief for three days inside the temple, Mr. Kukreti and about 400 pilgrims hiked a few miles to an emergency landing pad, and rescue helicopters flew them to a relief camp.

Google has developed a Person Finder application for the Uttarakhand area, and the state government has created a message board on its Web site, where relatives of missing pilgrims are posting their phone numbers and names, and the last locations and pictures of their missing relatives. In a message on the Uttarakhand government bulletin board, Rajneesh, an anxious relative, who uses only one name, said he was looking for his missing brother, sister-in-law and their two children named Honey and Money.

The Himalayan pilgrimage centers have been straining to cope with the disaster. In the past two decades, religious expression has increased in India along with economic growth, and the number of pilgrims visiting religious sites has greatly increased. According to official statistics, 30 million tourists visited Uttarakhand in 2010, up from 10 million in 2001, according to official statistics.

“It is an ecologically fragile region and the Himalayas are young mountains, but there is haphazard construction to serve increasing numbers of tourists and pilgrims,” said Ashish Kothari, an Indian environmentalist and a co-author of “Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India.” “All sorts of hydroelectric projects are coming up in these areas, and anything goes in the name of environment assessment.”

The rescuers are racing against time; the Indian Meteorological Department predicted more rain in northern India starting Monday.

Around 73,000 pilgrims have been evacuated, according to Indian officials. In an interview with a television network, Mr. Bahuguna, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, said it might take about two weeks to evacuate all stranded pilgrims and find the missing.

Mr. Kukreti, the priest, said many people “were so scared” that they “ran into forests to save themselves.”

“I worry how any helicopters can reach those who are in narrow valleys or jungles,” he said. “They might die of hunger before the government reaches them.”

Hari Kumar and Malavika Vyawahare contributed reporting.

India monsoon floods kill at least 560; thousands missing
By Danish Siddiqui, RUDRAPRAYAG, India | Sat Jun 22, 2013 6:36am EDT

(Reuters) - Flash floods and landslides unleashed by early monsoon rains have killed at least 560 people in northern India and left tens of thousands missing, officials said on Saturday, with the death toll expected to rise significantly.

Houses and small apartment blocks on the banks of the Ganges, India's longest river and sacred to Hindus, have toppled into the rushing, swollen waters and been swept away with cars and trucks.

"It has been a horrifying experience," said Tulika Srivastava, a visitor from the northern Indian city of Lucknow, who has been stranded with her 80-year-old mother in the key pilgrimage town of Rudraprayag since last week.

Thousands of military servicemen are involved in rescue operations, with air force helicopters plucking survivors, many of them Hindu pilgrims and tourists, from the foothills of the Himalayas.

About 33,000 people had been rescued so far this week, the home ministry said. Railways were running special trains from the devastated areas to take people home.

"Whatever is humanly possible is being done," Manish Tewari, the minister of information and broadcasting, told reporters.

The rains had eased on Saturday but more rain is expected early next week, complicating the task of rescuers. Rain will fall from Monday onwards in many places in the Himalayan foothills, said a weather official who sought anonymity.

As many as 150,000 people were airlifted from the reach of the floods, said Dinesh Malasi, a rescue official at Dehradun, the state capital, with 60 helicopters pressed into the task.

Aid workers are struggling to negotiate roads blocked by landslides to reach the Kedarnath Valley, one of the worst affected areas, where thousands of pilgrims have been stranded. Some of those rescued by helicopter told charity officials in Dehradun they had seen bodies scattered everywhere.

Kedarnath, the site of a temple to a powerful Hindu deity, is 86 km from Rudraprayag in the hill state of Uttarakhand.

"The deaths will certainly rise," said Madan Mohan Doval, an official of Sphere India, a group of non-government bodies working in the area that includes international charity Plan as well as the Indian Red Cross Society.

"People are in immediate need of basic aid such as dry food, clean drinking water, clothes, medicines, tarpaulin sheets for shelter and blankets," Doval added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered 200,000 rupees ($3,400) to the family of each of those who lost their lives and 50,000 rupees ($840) to the injured from his national relief fund. He also pledged money to people who have lost their homes.

Singh promised 10 billion rupees ($167 million) in disaster relief to Uttarakhand, home of the gods in Hindu mythology and the hardest-hit state.

The rains have not hit the summer sowing season in northern India so far, as the planting of rice, sugar, cotton and other agricultural produce is not yet in full swing. ($1=59 rupees)

25 October 2011 Last updated at 06:58 ET

Thai floods: Bangkok Don Muang airport suspends flights
Runways at the Thai capital's second airport are not expected to reopen for a week

Bangkok's second airport has suspended all flights after floodwaters breached its northern perimeter.  Don Muang airport, used mainly for domestic flights, is in northern Bangkok - the area of the capital worst hit by the flooding.

The international airport, in another part of the city, is still operating.

Thailand has been hit by heavy monsoon rain since July, leading to flooding which has hit swathes of the country and left more than 360 people dead.  Water from inundated central areas is now running south to the sea.  Officials have been trying to drain it to the east and west of Bangkok, but they have been forced to open sluice gates into the city because of the sheer volume of water building up outside Bangkok's flood barriers.

On Tuesday, the Thai cabinet announced a 325bn-baht ($10.5bn; £6.6bn) fund to help rebuild the country - mainly aimed at small and medium businesses, small vendors and individuals, reported Reuters news agency.

"If they get back to normal quickly, it will help push the economy forward," the agency quoted Finance Minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala as saying of the businesses.
Relief headquarters

Seven districts of the capital are now said to be at risk - with Bang Phlad, home to department stores, universities and hospitals, added to that list by Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra late on Monday.
Tents for evacuees at Don Muang airport on 23 October 2011 Part of Don Muang airport is being used as an evacuation centre for Bangkok residents

Central areas remain dry, but the Chao Phraya river, which bisects the city, reached a record high on Monday.

Don Muang airport - a hub for domestic flights, low-cost carriers and some cargo - has been threatened by encroaching floodwater for several days.

An official said the flooding was affecting perimeter areas, not the runway. However the runways are not expected to reopen for a week.

There were chaotic scenes at the airport, reported Associated Press news agency, with throngs of confused passengers in the departure hall and long waiting times for transport.

The airport is also now being used as an evacuation centre and as the headquarters of the government's flood relief operations. Relief officials said they had no plans to relocate.

Elsewhere, residents of the Muang Ake housing estate were ordered to evacuate after a flood protection wall in nearby Pathum Thani province was breached, Reuters reported.

Thai authorities have declared a holiday in several provinces, including Bangkok, to help people cope with the flooding.

Schools and offices will close from Thursday through to the end of Monday, creating a five-day break.

Nasa has used satellite images from 1 to 9 August to show the intensity of rainfall compared to average rates for the same period in previous years.  The darker blue shows where rain was much more intense than usual; brown indicates less intense rainfall. Some regions have had as much as 24 millimetres of rain per day above normal.  In Khanpur, in Pakistan's Sindh district, for example, the average rainfall is 17.4mm for the whole month of August. So far, 255mm has fallen in 12 days.

The annual monsoon season, typically from June to September, is caused by the difference in temperature between the land and the sea.

As the Tibetan plateau warms up, heated air rises, drawing in moist air from the sea to replace it. This also warms, rises and the water condenses into rain.  The BBC Weather Centre says a kink in the jet stream of fast-moving air in the upper atmosphere has exacerbated conditions this year. More spiralling air in the upper atmosphere sucks in more moist air, causing larger clouds and more intense rainfall.

Death toll from Pakistan floods rises to 1,100
Washington Times
By Riaz Khan, Associated Press
Updated: 8:41 a.m. on Sunday, August 1, 2010

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — The death toll from massive floods in northwestern Pakistan rose to 1,100 Sunday as rescue workers struggled to save more than 27,000 people still trapped by the raging water.

The rescue effort was aided by a slackening of the monsoon rains that have caused the worst flooding in decades in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province. But as flood waters started to recede, authorities began to understand the full scale of the disaster.

"Aerial monitoring is being conducted, and it has shown that whole villages have washed away, animals have drowned, and grain storages have washed away," said Latifur Rehman, spokesman for the Provincial Disaster Management Authority. "The destruction is massive..." 

Death toll in Pakistani floods surges past 800
By NABEEL YUSUF and RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press Writer
31 July 2010

NOWSHERA, Pakistan – The death toll in the massive flooding in Pakistan surged past 800 as floodwaters receded Saturday in the hard-hit northwest, an official said. The damage to roads, bridges and communications networks hindered rescuers, while the threat of disease loomed as some evacuees arrived in camps with fever, diarrhea and skin problems.

Even for a country used to tragedy — especially deadly suicide attacks by Taliban militants — the scale of this past week's flooding has been shocking. Monsoon rains come every year, but rarely with such fury. The devastation came in the wake of the worst-ever plane crash in Pakistan, which killed 152 people in Islamabad on Wednesday.

In neighboring eastern Afghanistan, floods killed 64 people and injured 61 others in the past week, while destroying hundreds of homes and huge stretches of farmland, according to Matin Edrak, director of the Afghan government's disaster department.

As rivers swelled in Pakistan's northwest, people sought ever-shrinking high ground or grasped for trees and fences to avoid getting swept away. Buildings simply crumbled into the raging river in Kalam, a town in the northern part of the Swat Valley, Geo TV showed Saturday.

Reports coming in from districts around the northwest, where such flooding has not been seen since 1929, showed at least 800 people had died, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the region's information minister. The U.N. estimated that some 1 million people nationwide were affected by the disaster, though it didn't specify exactly what that meant.

Floodwaters were receding in the region, and many people remain missing, Hussain said.

Over 30,000 Pakistani army troops engaged in rescue and relief work had evacuated 19,000 trapped people by Saturday night, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas.

"The level of devastation is so widespread, so large," he said. "It is quite possible that in many areas there is damage, deaths, which may not have been reported."

In the Nowshera area, scores of men, women and children sat on roofs in hopes of air or boat rescues. Many had little more than the clothes on their backs.

"There are very bad conditions," said Amjad Ali, a rescue worker in the area. "They have no water, no food."

A doctor treating evacuees at a small relief camp in Nowshera said some had diarrhea and others had marks appearing on their skin, causing itching. Children and the elderly seemed to have the most problems, Mehmood Jaa said.

"Due to the floodwater, they now have pain in their bodies and they are suffering from fever and cough," Jaa told The Associated Press.

In the town Charsadda, Nabi Gul, who estimated he was around 70, looked at a pile of rubble where his house once stood.

"I built this house with my life's earnings and hard work, and the river has washed it away," he said in a trembling voice. "Now I wonder, will I be able to rebuild it? And in this time, when there are such great price hikes?"

Another resident of Charsadda complained of what he considered a lackluster government response.

"Nobody has offered us for help. We have got no help," said Awal Sher, 60. "Everything is destroyed. Inside, outside — everything is broken."

In eastern Afghanistan, Edrak said floods destroyed about 800 homes and hundreds of acres (hectares) of farm land, damaged hydropower dams and partially destroyed more than 500 other houses. Most of the flooding was in eight provinces, including Kabul, he said.

Rescuers were using army helicopters, heavy trucks and boats to try to reach flood-hit areas. Thousands of homes and roads were destroyed, and at least 45 bridges across the northwest were damaged, the U.N. said.

The American Embassy in Islamabad announced the United States would be providing 12 prefabricated steel bridges to temporarily replace some of the spans damaged by the water. It also is sending rescue boats, water filtration units and some 50,000 meals to be distributed to those in stricken areas, the embassy said in a statement.

Communications networks were sketchy, and the rescue effort was further hampered by the washed-out roads and bridges, said Lutfur Rehman, a government official in the northwest.

"Our priority is to transport flood-affected people to safer places. We are carrying out this rescue operation despite limited resources," he said.

Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, the head of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, said that no more rain was expected in the next few days for the northwest. But Punjab province in the east, Sindh province in the south, and Pakistan's side of the disputed Kashmir region all could expect a lashing over the next three or four days, he said.

Flooding has already affected some of those regions, with more than 20 people dying in Kashmir.

MORE IN 2011
Flash Flood, Philippines 26 Sept. 2009:

“It’s like Waterworld,” said the head of disaster relief agency.  
Residents wade through floodwaters to return to their submerged houses in Marikina City Metro Manila August 8, 2012. Emergency workers and troops rushed food, water and clothes to nearly 850,000 people displaced and marooned from deadly floods spawned by 11 straight days of southwest monsoon rains that soaked the Philippine capital and nearby provinces. About 60 percent of Manila, a sprawling metropolis of about 12 million people, remained inundated on Wednesday, Benito Ramos, head of the national disaster agency, told Reuters. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo (PHILIPPINES)

Thousands Flee Manila Flooding, Desperate Residents Trapped on Roofs
August 7, 2012

MANILA — Rescue workers on Tuesday raced to pluck people from their roofs and out of fast-flowing water as the worst flooding in two years submerged a third of Manila, the Philippines’ overpopulated capital.

More than 50 people have been killed and at least 250,000 evacuated in the last week due to a series of storms, monsoon rains and flooding, officials said.

“It’s like Waterworld,” said Benito Ramos, the head of the government’s disaster relief agency, referring to a Hollywood film depicting a submerged Earth.

Major streets in Manila turned to rivers on Monday after a series of tropical storms intensified what has historically been a period of heavy monsoon rains.

Schools, business and government offices were ordered closed while city residents watched in horror as neighborhood after neighborhood was submerged. Tens of thousands of city residents were rescued or swam to safety. Others huddled on rooftops in hopes that the waters would subside.

Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Red Cross of the Philippines, described a perilous situation for rescuers, many of whom were using rafts and makeshift boats to traverse flooded slum areas.

“We have areas where our people can’t get in because there are live wires in the water. They face the risk of electrocution.” said Mr. Gordon. “We just have to grin and bear it and do our best to rescue people.”

In Quezon City, a hard-hit suburb of Manila, nine people including three children were killed on Tuesday when a landslide triggered by heavy rain buried a slum area.

Nine provincial areas near Manila declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, triggering national government relief efforts. For much of the day on Tuesday, the only major highway linking Manila to the north of the country was submerged and closed to traffic, stranding hundreds of motorists. The United States Embassy Web site said it would remain closed Tuesday and Wednesday “due to severe weather conditions.”

Manila is particularly vulnerable to flooding. The city, home to more than 10 million people, sits in a low-lying area between a large lake and the ocean. The lake, called Laguna de Bay at the south of the city, drains to the ocean via the Pasig River, which runs through the center of town. The lake and the river are both heavily silted and prone to overflowing.

A major dam north of the city that provides much of the Manila’s water supplies crested in recent days, forcing officials to open flood gates that released additional water into the city. In addition, the ocean bay beside Manila has swelled during high tide in recent days.

The result has been a deluge of water coming from the northern dam, the southern lake, the ocean to the west and an overflowing river down the center.

The flooding triggered fears in Manila of a repeat of typhoons Ketsana and Parma, which struck within a one week period in 2009. The storms caused flooding that affected more than 9 million and killed 929, according to the government disaster relief agency.

Mr. Gordon, with the Philippine Red Cross, said he did not expect the situation to become as bad as the storms of 2009.

“I feel a little positive that the sun will come out tomorrow,” he said. “We are trying to be positive but a lot of people are suffering tonight.”

In Philippines, Fleeing Floodwaters in the Middle of Night
December 18, 2011

MANILA — Just after 1 a.m. Saturday, Mary Ann Melancio became concerned about a co-worker. He had sent her a text message saying that he was trapped by floodwaters in his home with his wife and 10-year-old daughter.

“I called him, and he said in a very quiet voice, ‘The water is up to our stomachs, and we can’t get out. The current outside is strong,’ ” recalled Ms. Melancio, a 36-year-old resident of the flood-stricken city of Iligan. “After that, the phone went dead.”

When the sun rose Sunday, Ms. Melancio and others went to their co-worker’s house, but he was gone. They fear he was swept away with his family.

“We walked back to our place and could see the bodies of dead people and animals along the road,” she said by telephone. “I have never seen a tragedy like this in my life.”

In neighborhoods throughout the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, similar stories could be heard. In the dead of night Saturday, flash floods triggered by Tropical Storm Washi sent water barreling into the homes of sleeping families. Hundreds drowned or were dragged to their deaths by the currents.

By late Sunday, the Philippine Red Cross estimated that 652 people had died in the flooding and that more than 800 were missing. The death toll was expected to rise significantly. An estimated 35,000 people were in evacuation centers, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. The storm hit the western island of Palawan on Sunday morning and by that night was moving into the South China Sea.

The death toll was tallied by Red Cross staff and volunteers who counted bodies in funeral parlors, the secretary-general of the Philippine Red Cross, Gwendolyn Pang, said. The number of missing was based on requests to trace missing family members.

“There are areas that rescuers have not been able to penetrate,” she said by phone late Sunday. “We expect the number of dead to increase, but this is still a search and rescue effort. We are finding people alive.”

The Philippines is struck by about 20 major storms a year, but Benito Ramos, a civil defense official, said during a news briefing in Manila that this storm took an usual path. Local officials confirmed his assessment.

Rescue workers continued to search for survivors on Sunday, but many — including thousands of soldiers — instead found themselves relegated to the task of collecting the dead. Funeral homes in the two worst-hit cities reported that they were overwhelmed with unclaimed corpses decomposing in the tropical humidity.  In Cagayan de Oro, Nove Paulio said that rescue workers had come to her neighborhood but that there was no one left to find.

“The houses in my place are empty or destroyed,” said Ms. Paulio, 19, who lived with her parents, sister and three brothers in an area near a river that flooded.

Ms. Paulio said she had been sleeping about 1:30 a.m. when she felt water touch her foot, which was hanging off the bed. She ran to wake up her mother and siblings, and within minutes the water was up to her hips. Her mother clutched her infant sister, while she picked up her brothers, ages 2 and 3, and carried them out of the house.

“Our kitchen table was floating,” Ms. Paulio said. “My brothers were crying and asking what was happening.”

The family made it to the roof of a nearby house and with the assistance of neighbors were able to swim, roof to roof, until they reached higher ground.

“We are still alive, but we lost everything,” she said.

Flooding Kills Scores in Southern Philippines
December 17, 2011

MANILA — Flash floods in the southern Philippines on Saturday sent water gushing into homes, killing at least 200 and surprising families who fled to rooftops clutching children, officials said. More than 400 people are missing.

“The rivers flooded and washed through villages,” said Col. Leopoldo Galon, a military spokesman. “Soldiers conducting search-and-rescue operations are finding bodies in all areas, in homes, rivers, off shore, in the street. Casualties are everywhere.”

The flooding was triggered by tropical storm Washi, which hit the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Friday, creating wind gusts of up to 56 miles an hour and dumping heavy rain in the area. By the early morning hours of Saturday, the storm had triggered flooding in the towns of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, officials said.

The heavy rain sent water pouring down mountains and into already swollen rivers that quickly engulfed areas in the northern part of Mindanao. Fast-rising waters gushed into homes after 2 a.m., when most were sleeping, said Benito Ramos, a civil defense official, during a news briefing in Manila.

Washi is the 19th storm to hit the country this year, but Mr. Ramos said typhoons and tropical storms usually strike farther north in the Philippines and this one took a path that officials had never seen before. As a result, many residents were caught off guard by the speed and ferocity of the floodwaters. Local officials confirmed his assessment.

“This area is not on the usual path for violent typhoons and doesn’t get this type of severe flooding,” said Colonel Galon, the military spokesman. “This storm took a different path, and it surprised people.”

He noted that soldiers in the area were preparing to have Christmas celebrations with their families when they were called in for emergency operations that quickly turned into the grim and grisly task of collecting bodies. “We’re not complaining,” he said. “It’s our job.”

Residents in the area expressed similar sentiments, noting that Christmas trees had been erected in parks in Cagayan de Oro, a popular tourist town, and residents had begun going to church nightly in preparation for the holidays.

“This Christmas is going to be imprinted in everybody’s memories,” said Stephanie Caragos, a 34-year resident of Cagayan de Oro. “We are seeing trucks pass by filled with dead bodies, and people are buying in bulk to give away to those who need it. This will be in our minds for a long time.”

Reached by telephone Ms. Caragos, a lifelong resident of the city said she had lost an uncle in the flooding and found that funeral parlors in the area were inundated with victims.

“We knew there was a storm coming, but we had no idea it would be this bad,” she said. “When we woke up, whole parts of the city were flooded. There were areas where the water was so strong that even the rescuers could not get it in.

The storm is expected to leave the Philippines on Sunday, after striking the western island of Palawan, according to the country’s national weather service.

The country was hit by tropical storm Banyan in October, which killed eight people. In September, two typhoons, Nesat and Nalgae, struck in quick succession and killed more than 100 people.


The weekend of the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic-iceberg sinking brought tornado warnings to the that Storrs, Connecticut?  Right:  Just like the end of "Twister" Nov. 17. 2013

A tornado funnel touches down in Riverside, Calif. on Thursday, May 22, 2008. A wild weather system lashed Southern California on Thursday with fierce thunderstorms that unleashed mudslides in wildfire-scarred canyons, spawned at least one tornado and dusted mountains and even low-lying communities with snow and hail. (AP Photo/Merri Lynn Casem);  St. Louis airport story here.  U. of Alabama story;  Joplin. Missouri touchdown deadly.

We guess tornadoes are year-round phenomena...???  Perhaps more prevalent in some seasons than others? 

ILLINOIS: tornado path impact locationt.

Power Still Out for Thousands After Tornadoes Pound Midwest
Published: November 18, 2013

...Storm alerts were issued throughout Sunday for areas of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin — “on the order of 40 tornadoes” altogether, said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. At least two of those, including the one that cut through Washington, are likely to be rated EF4, which have winds of at least 166 miles per hour...story in full here.

Tornado Outbreak Kills at Least Five in Midwest
November 17, 2013

Severe storms moved through the Midwest on Sunday, leveling towns, killing at least five people in Illinois and injuring dozens more, and causing thousands of power failures across the region.

Officials warned of a fast-moving, deadly storm system on Sunday morning and issued tornado watches throughout the day for wide areas of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. By the time the storm had passed on Sunday evening, tornadoes — scores of them, according to the National Weather Service — had left paths of destruction.  Homes were leveled and trees shredded in Washington, Ill., and nearby farms were turned upside down, with farm equipment dotting the landscape.

Weather officials were uncertain just how many confirmed tornadoes might have hit the region. But as of Sunday evening, the National Weather Service website listed reports of at least 77 — most of them in Illinois — although officials cautioned that in some cases there may have been multiple reports on the same storm.  At least five deaths were reported by Sunday evening. An 80-year-old man and his 78-year-old sister were killed when a tornado struck their farm outside New Minden, Ill., about 50 miles east of St. Louis. The man was found in a field about 100 yards from the home, and the woman was found under a pile of rubble, according to the Washington County coroner’s office.

A third person was killed in Washington, Ill., one of the hardest-hit towns, and two others were killed in Massac County in Southern Illinois, according to Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. The details of the deaths were not available late Sunday.  Dozens of people were also injured in the town, which has 15,000 residents and is about halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. At least 35 people were taken to a hospital with injuries, according to a statement from OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. There was also extensive damage in the nearby city of Pekin, which has about 34,000 people.

In Indiana, tornadoes and storm damage were reported in 12 counties, according to Gov. Mike Pence. In Missouri, the utility company Ameren reported that more than 35,000 customers had lost power, mostly in the St. Louis area.  Officials said that some of the worst damage occurred in Coal City, Ill., about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. At least 100 buildings there were damaged by a tornado, and at least four people were injured, according to local media reports.

Storms also caused extensive damage in East Peoria, officials said.  Members of the Illinois National Guard and other emergency rescue teams were sent to the towns to help with search and recovery operations. Whole neighborhoods in Washington were destroyed, according to Tyler Gee, an alderman on the City Council.

“I went over there immediately after the tornado, walking through the neighborhoods, and I couldn’t even tell what street I was on,” Mr. Gee told the radio station WBBM in Chicago. “It just completely flattened some of the neighborhoods here in town, hundreds of homes.”

Photographs from the town showed overturned cars and piles of debris where homes once stood. The National Guard also sent 10 firefighters and three vehicles to Washington, and the American Red Cross in central Illinois sent volunteers to set up shelters and distribute water and food.  Washington town officials implemented an overnight curfew on Sunday starting at 6 p.m., said Ms. Arnold of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Officials were worried about safety because of the debris and downed power lines, she said.

There were several shelters for evacuees, she said, including one at the Crossroads United Methodist Church in Washington.  In Roanoke, Ill., about 15 miles east of Washington, one family was at church on Sunday when a tornado hit their farm. Tony Johnson of Germantown Hills said he arrived at his niece’s farm about 30 minutes after the tornado passed and found that it had destroyed everything in its path. His niece and her husband and three children were not home when the storm hit, he said.

“The house is gone, everything is leveled,” Mr. Johnson said in a telephone interview. “There is nothing that is usable. Their trucks were tossed around like toys.”

Soon, neighbors started arriving to help the family sift through the rubble, he said.

“You get that in the heartland for sure,” he said. “There were probably 100 people there to help — it was just amazing.”

On Sunday evening, officials were still trying to assess the damage. Telephone lines in the most devastated towns were not working, making it difficult to get more information, said Patti Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.  Thunderstorms and strong winds also caused problems in Chicago, disrupting power and hundreds of flights and delaying a National Football League game.

Fans attending the afternoon football game at Soldier Field were asked to leave the stands and take shelter during the first quarter of the Bears’ game against the Baltimore Ravens. The game was suspended for almost two hours before play resumed, and the Bears finished with a victory.  More than 230 flights were canceled at O’Hare International Airport because of the weather, and many other flights were delayed. Flights were also delayed at Midway Airport in Chicago.  Wind gusts reached as high as 75 miles per hour in the Chicago area, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm caused widespread power failures in Chicago and nearby suburbs. There were at least 89,000 reported losses of power in Northern Illinois, according to ComEd, the utility company that serves the city.

Is this a tornado aiming for the new facility in Storrs?

NWS Confirms EF-1 Tornado In Coventry Area On Wednesday
The Hartford Courant
Staff reports
4:13 PM EDT, July 11, 2013

COVENTRY — A tornado with maximum winds of 90 mph tore through the Coventry area on Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.  The EF-1 tornado touched down about 5:19 p.m. and travelled about 11.2 miles through Andover, Coventry and Mansfield over the course of about a half hour, the NWS said.  A barn in Coventry was heavily damaged.

A microburst — straight-line wind — occurred in Tolland.

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant

Possible Tornado Sighted Amid Storms, Heavy Rain;  Barn Knocked Down In Coventry
The Hartford Courant
July 11, 2013

A possible tornado was spotted moving through Coventry into Mansfield Wednesday evening as storms moved across the state, dumping heavy rain, knocking down trees and power lines and prompting tornado warnings in Tolland and Windham counties.

The National Weather Service said it was gathering information on a possible tornado and planned to send a survey team on Thursday to investigate. The team will investigate damage in two areas: in Tolland and in the Andover-Coventry-Storrs area.  If a tornado is confirmed, it would be the fourth this month; three others were confirmed during a series of storms on July 1.

The tree damages caused some minor power outages, mainly in Coventry and Andover.  In addition to downing trees and wires, Wednesday's storm knocked down a barn at the Melody Farm at 1000 South St.

Dudley Brand of South Street said he and his son, Jeffrey, were watching storm coverage on television when their dog began "acting a little freaky." He got up to walk outside, figuring that the dog "senses something."

"Just as I was walking out the door I heard a pop, and then I heard this really loud freight train kind of noise, fast moving," Brand said. "I could see the funnel cloud and it was pulling the metal panels off the barn up in the air."

Brand said the 10-foot panels were swept so high that they looked like roof shingles in the sky, he said.

"It was very fast moving and it went in a direct line," he said of the funnel cloud. "It was heading right toward Windham Airport."

The storm was moving so quickly that Jeffrey Brand did not make it outside in time to see the barn panels in the sky, his father said.

"This barn was probably 40 by 60 feet," Dudley Brand said. "It was a good size structure."

He said he believes no livestock were inside.  UConn student Nick Stanczyc captured a photo of a funnel cloud moving across Coventry and into Mansfield about 5:45 p.m. He was at the intersections of routes 31 and 32 near the Mansfield-Coventry border.  Stanczyc, of Avon, was at work at Eastern Connecticut Wine and Spirits in Mansfield when he noticed that a group of people had stopped in the store's parking lot and were looking north. He went outside, noticed the funnel cloud and snapped two photos before it was gone.

"It was moving pretty quick," he said. "It probably lasted 10 or 15 seconds [then] moved out of view."

Stanczyc said he saw some debris in the air, but added, "I couldn't hear anything from it."

The National Weather Service and local officials reported several trees down at Mountain Spring Road near Old Post Road in Tolland, several trees down near South Street and Bunker Hill Road in Coventry and trees down on Depot Road in Mansfield, and wires down along Route 195 in Mansfield.  The heavy rain caused flash flooding on poorly drained streets in Hartford and brought traffic to a crawl on I-91 and I-84 Wednesday evening.  More scattered thunderstorms are predicted for Thursday, which could produce heavy rain, as well as flooding in poor-drainage areas, according to FOX CT meteorologist Rachel Frank.

The weather service confirmed three tornadoes in Connecticut on July 1. Two were from the same storm, touching down in Windsor and then in Enfield, that afternoon, the weather service said. Earlier in the day, a tornado was confirmed in Greenwich and Stamford.

The first tornado tore across Windsor, Windsor Locks and East Windsor, knocking trees and power lines, destroying an inflatable sports dome and ripping tobacco netting from fields along Kennedy Road in Windsor and carrying them into Windsor Locks and across the Connecticut River and I-91 and into East Windsor.

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant

On the loeft - the tornado in-between Moore and the central Oklahoma group.

5 Killed as Tornadoes Tear Through Central Oklahoma
May 31, 2013, 10:36 pm

12:54 a.m. | Updated At least five people were killed and 50 others injured when multiple tornadoes tore across central Oklahoma Friday night, causing flash flooding and extensive damage less than two weeks after a tornado killed 24 people and ravaged Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

The sound of sirens sent people in Moore and Oklahoma scrambling for cover again, but meteorologists said the storm’s fury did not match that of the twister last week. But its power was felt over a wider area, stretching from El Reno to downtown Oklahoma City, while heavy rain from the storm triggered flash flooding.

Coming just 12 days after a tornado ravaged the deadly Moore tornado leveled entire neighborhoods and left two dozen dead, residents there scrambled for cover again on Friday night as the latest tornado struck their town and nearby Oklahoma City.

In addition to the five fatalities, about 50 people were hurt, five critically, officials said Saturday.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said troopers found the bodies of a woman and an infant near their vehicle near Union City along Interstate 40. Another person died in El Reno, according to Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the state Medical Examiner. Details on the other two deaths were not known early Saturday morning.

KFOR-TV, the local NBC affiliate, was providing live online coverage.

As the storm approached, the National Weather Service issued an unusual “dangerous” tornado emergency for parts of central Oklahoma and Oklahoma City area as the multiple tornadoes carved paths of destruction from west to east across the middle of the state, flipping cars and tractor-trailers, knocking down power lines and ripping off roofs. The storm also caused flash flooding, submerging cars caught on roads...

Crews Search for Survivors in Oklahoma After Tornado
May 21, 2013

MOORE, Okla. — Emergency crews and volunteers continued to work Tuesday morning in a frantic search for survivors of a massive tornado that ripped through parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs, killing dozens of people and flattening whatever was in its path, including a hospital and at least two schools.

Much of the tornado damage was in the suburb of Moore, where rescue workers struggled to make their way through debris-clogged streets and around downed power lines to those who were feared trapped under mountains of rubble. Rescue workers equipped with thermal-imaging equipment and dogs sifted through plywood boards, upended cars and steel beams where houses and shops once stood.

The risk of tornadoes throughout the region remained high Tuesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman.

President Obama, who declared a federal disaster in five Oklahoma counties, said Tuesday at the White House that the tornado had been “one of the most destructive in history,” and that he had informed aides that “Oklahoma needs to get everything it needs right away.” He said Federal Emergency Management Agency officials had been dispatched to Moore to aid in the recovery effort.

“For all those who’ve been affected, we recognize that you face a long road ahead,” Mr. Obama said. “In some cases, there will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed. But you will not travel that path alone.”

Officials said Tuesday that it was far too early to say how many people had been killed. On Monday night, Amy Elliott, the spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City medical examiner, said at least 51 people had died and 40 more bodies were on their way, but on Tuesday, Ms. Elliott said that count “is no longer accurate.”

As of Tuesday morning, the medical examiner had confirmed 24 deaths, nine of them children, she said.

On Monday night, hospitals reported at least 145 people injured, 70 of them children.

Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore was reduced to a pile of twisted metal and toppled walls. Rescue workers were able to pull several children from the rubble, and on Tuesday, as a chilly rain swept through the area, crews were still struggling to cut through fallen beams and clear debris.

“We are still definitely in search-and-rescue mode.” Jayme Shelton, a Moore spokesman

At Briarwood Elementary School in Oklahoma City, on the border with Moore, cars were thrown through the facade and the roof was torn off.

“Numerous neighborhoods were completely leveled,” Sgt. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department said by telephone on Monday night. “Neighborhoods just wiped clean.”

He said debris and damage to roadways, along with heavy traffic, were hindering emergency responders as they raced to the affected areas.

A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office in Moore said emergency workers were struggling to assess the damage.

“Please send us your prayers,” she said.

Shortly before midnight, the area near the Plaza Towers school was eerily quiet and shrouded in darkness from a widespread power outage. Local authorities and F.B.I. agents patrolled the streets, restricting access to the school.

Half a mile from the school, the only sounds on Southwest Fourth Street were of barking dogs and tires on wet pavement littered with debris. Hovering in the sky, a helicopter shined a spotlight on the damaged neighborhoods. In the darkness, the century-old Moore Cemetery was a ghostly wreck: women’s clothing and blankets clung to the branches of tilting trees and twisted sheets of metal ripped from nearby buildings or homes were strewn among the graves. Many headstones had been pushed flat to the ground by the wind.

Brooke Cayot, a spokeswoman for Integris Southwest Medical Center in Oklahoma City, said 58 patients had come in by about 9 p.m. An additional 85 were being treated at Oklahoma University Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

“They’ve been coming in minute by minute,” Ms. Cayot said.

The tornado touched down at 2:56 p.m., 16 minutes after the first warning went out, and traveled for 20 miles, said Keli Pirtle, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla. It was on the ground for 40 minutes, she said. It struck the town of Newcastle and traveled about 10 miles to Moore, which has a population of about 55,000.

Ms. Pirtle said preliminary data suggested that it was a Category 4 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which measures tornado strength on a scale of 0 to 5. The tornado’s winds were estimated to have been at least 166 miles per hour. A definitive assessment will be available later Tuesday, she said.

Moore was the scene of another huge tornado, in May 1999, in which winds reached record speeds of 302 m.p.h., and experts said severe weather was common in the region this time of year.

But the region has rarely had a tornado as big and as powerful as the one on Monday.

Television images showed destruction spread over a vast area, with blocks upon blocks of homes and businesses destroyed. Residents, some partly clothed and apparently caught by surprise, were shown picking through rubble. Several structures were on fire, and cars had been tossed around, flipped over and stacked on top of each other.

Kelcy Trowbridge, her husband and their three young children piled into their neighbor’s cellar just outside of Moore and huddled together for about five minutes, wrapped under a blanket as the tornado screamed above them, debris smashing against the cellar door.

They emerged to find their home flattened and the family car resting upside down a few houses away. Ms. Trowbridge’s husband rushed toward what was left of their home and began sifting through the debris, then stopped, and told her to call the police.

He had found the body of a little girl, about 2 or 3 years old, she said.

“He knew she was already gone,” Ms. Trowbridge said. “When the police got there, he just bawled.”

She said: “My neighborhood is gone. It’s flattened. Demolished. The street is gone. The next block over, it’s in pieces.”

Sarah Johnson was forced to rush from her home in Moore to the hospital as the storm raged when her 4-year-old daughter, Shellbie, suffered an asthma attack. With hail raining down, she put a hard hat on her daughter as she raced into the emergency room and hunkered down.

“We knew it was coming — all the nurses were down on the ground so we got down on the ground,” Ms. Johnson said from the Journey Church in nearby Norman, where she had sought shelter.

At the hospital, she said, she shoved her daughter next to a wall and threw a mattress on top of her. After the storm passed, debris and medical equipment were scattered around, she said.

Ms. Johnson said she and her daughter were safe, but she had yet to find her husband.

Some parts of Moore emerged seemingly untouched by the tornado. Bea Carruth, who lives about 20 blocks from where the storm struck, said her home and others in her neighborhood appeared to be fine.

Ms. Carruth had ridden out the tornado as she usually does, at her son’s house nearby, the hail pounding away on the cellar where they had taken shelter. Tornadoes have long been a part of life in Moore, she said, and a few times a year, in a well-worn ritual, she goes into her son’s cellar when the sirens go off.

As devastating as the tornado was, the quick thinking of some prevented the death toll from going higher.

When the tornado sirens went off around 2:15, the staff of the AgapeLand Learning Center, a day care facility, hustled some 15 children into two bathrooms, draping them with a protective covering and singing songs with them to keep them calm.

As the wind ripped the roof off one of the bathrooms, and debris rained down on the children, they remained calm, singing “You Are My Sunshine,” the assistant director, Cathy Wilson, said. Though the day care center was almost entirely destroyed, the children were unharmed.

“Not a child had a scratch,” Ms. Wilson said.

Two-dozen for sure...
Frenetic search for survivors as 91 feared dead in tornado-hit Oklahoma

Alice Mannette Ian Simpson
7:28 AM EDT, May 21, 2013

MOORE, Oklahoma (Reuters) - Pre-dawn emergency workers searched feverishly for survivors in the rubble of homes, primary schools and an hospital in an Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by a massive Monday afternoon tornado feared to have killed up to 91 people and injured well over 200 residents.

The 2-mile(3-km) wide tornado tore through town of Moore outside Oklahoma City, trapping victims beneath the rubble as one elementary school took a direct hit and another was destroyed.

Reporters were cleared back from Plaza Towers Elementary School, which sustained a direct hit Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb told CNN. But television pictures showed firefighters from more than a dozen fire departments working under bright spotlights to find survivors.

President Barack Obama declared a major disaster area in Oklahoma, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local efforts in Moore after the deadliest U.S. tornado since one killed 161 people in Joplin, Missouri, two years ago.

The White House said Obama would make a statement on the Oklahoma tornado at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). It said the president was brieved overnight on the tornado tragedy.

There was an outpouring of grief on Plaza Towers' Facebook page, with messages from around the country including one pleading simply: "Please find those little children."

A separate Facebook page set up to reunite people in the area hit by a tornado on Sunday with their belongings and pets also showed entries for Moore residents overnight.

Another elementary school, homes and a hospital were among the buildings leveled in Moore, leaving residents of the town of about 50,000 people stunned at the devastation and loss of life. Many residents were left without power and water.

The Oklahoma medical examiner said 20 of the 91 expected to have been killed were children. The office had already confirmed 51 dead and had been told during the night by emergency services to expect 40 more bodies found in the debris, but had not yet received them.

At least 60 of the 240 people injured were children, area hospitals said.

The National Weather Service assigned the twister a preliminary ranking of EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, meaning the second most powerful category of tornado with winds up to 200 mph.

Witnesses said Monday's tornado appeared more fierce than the giant twister that was among the dozens that tore up the area on May 3, 1999, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. That tornado ranked as an EF5, meaning it had winds over 200 mph.

The 1999 event in Oklahoma ranks as the third-costliest tornado in U.S. history, having caused more than $1 billion in damage at the time, or more than $1.3 billion in today's dollars. Only the devastating Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes in 2011 were more costly.

"I am close to the families of all who died in the Oklahoma tornado, especially those who lost young children. Join me in praying for them," Pope Francis said in a Twitter message.

Jeff Alger, 34, who works in the Kansas oil fields on a fracking crew, said his wife Sophia took their children out of school when she heard a tornado was coming and then fled Moore and watched it flatten the town from a few miles away.

"They didn't even have time to grab their shoes," said Alger, who has five children aged four to 11. The storm tore part of the roof off of his home. He was with his wife at Norman Regional Hospital to have glass and other debris removed from his wife's bare feet.

Moore was devastated with debris everywhere, street signs gone, lights out, houses destroyed and vehicles tossed about as if they were toys.

The dangerous storm system threatened several southern Plains states with more twisters. The area around Moore faces the risk of severe thunderstorms on Tuesday, which could hamper rescue efforts.


Speaking outside Norman Regional Hospital Ninia Lay, 48, said she huddled in a closet through two storm alerts and the tornado hit on the third.

"I was hiding in the closet and I heard something like a train coming," she said under skies still flashing with lightning. The house was flattened and Lay was buried in the rubble for two hours until her husband Kevin, 50, and rescuers dug her out.

"I thank God for my cell phone, I called me husband for help."

Her daughter Catherine, seven, a first-grader at Plaza Towers Elementary School, took shelter with classmates and teachers in a bathroom when the tornado hit and destroyed the school. She escaped with scrapes and cuts.


The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center provided the town with a warning 16 minutes before the tornado touched down at 3:01 p.m. (2001 GMT), which is greater than the average eight to 10 minutes of warning, said Keli Pirtle, a spokeswoman for the center in Norman, Oklahoma.

The notice was upgraded to emergency warning with "heightened language" at 2:56 p.m., or five minutes before the tornado touched down, Pirtle said.

Television media measured the tornado at more than 2 miles wide, with images showing entire neighborhoods flattened.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed a temporary flight restriction that allowed only relief aircraft in the area, saying it was at the request of police who needed quiet to search for buried survivors.

Oklahoma activated the National Guard, and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency activated teams to support recovery operations and coordinate responses for multiple agencies.

Briarwood Elementary School, which also stood in the storm's path, was all but destroyed. On the first floor, sections of walls had been peeled away, giving clear views into the building; while in other areas, cars hurled by the storm winds were lodged in the walls.

The number of injured as reported by several hospitals rose rapidly throughout the afternoon.

"The whole city looks like a debris field," Glenn Lewis, the mayor of Moore, told NBC.

"It looks like we have lost our hospital. I drove by there a while ago and it's pretty much destroyed," Lewis said.

The massive twister struck at the height of tornado season, and more were forecast. On Sunday, tornadoes killed two people and injured 39 in Oklahoma.

(Additional reporting by Lindsay Morris, Carey Gillam, Nick Carey, Brendan O'Brien and Greg McCune; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Nick Carey; Editing by Alison Williams and W Simon)

Copyright © 2013, Reuters

Vast Oklahoma Tornado Kills at Least 51
May 20, 2013

MOORE, Okla. — A giant tornado, a mile wide or more, killed more than four dozen people as it tore through this Oklahoma City suburb Monday afternoon, flattening homes, flinging cars through the air and crushing at least two schools packed with children.

As the injured began flooding into hospitals, the authorities said many remained trapped, even as rescue workers were struggling to make their way through debris-clogged streets to the devastated suburb of Moore, where much of the damage occurred.

At least 51 people were killed in the storm, according to a spokesperson for the Oklahoma City medical examiner.

At Briarwood Elementary School in Oklahoma City, on the border with Moore, cars were thrown through the facade and the roof was torn off. A short distance away, at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, rescue workers struggled to tear through rubble amid reports that dozens of students were trapped.

“Numerous neighborhoods completely leveled,” Sgt. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department, said by telephone. “Neighborhoods just wiped clean.” Sergeant Knight said debris and damage to roadways, along with heavy traffic, were hindering emergency responders as they raced to the affected areas.

A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office in Moore said emergency workers were struggling to assess the damage.

“Please send us your prayers,” she said.

Brooke Cayot, a spokeswoman for Integris Southwest Medical Center in Oklahoma City, said had received 33 patients by about 6 p.m. Of those 10 were listed in critical condition, 10 in serious and 12 in fair or good. Many more patients were expected.

“They’ve been coming in minute by minute,” Ms. Cayot said.

Emily Kezbers, a spokeswoman for Deaconess Hospital in Oklahoma City, said three patients injured during the tornado were on their way to the hospital.

Keli Pirtle, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., said the tornado touched down at 2:56 p.m. and traveled for 20 miles. It was on the ground for 40 minutes, she said. It struck the town of Newcastle and traveled about 10 miles to Moore, a populous suburb of Oklahoma City.

Ms. Pirtle said preliminary data suggested that it was a Category 4 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which measures tornado strength on a scale of 0 to 5. A definitive assessment will not be available until Tuesday, she said.

Moore was the scene of another huge tornado, in May 1999, in which winds reached record speeds of 302 m.p.h.

Television on Monday showed destruction spread over a vast area, with blocks upon blocks of homes and businesses destroyed. Residents, some partly clothed and apparently caught by surprise, were shown picking through rubble. Several structures were on fire, and cars had been tossed around, flipped over and stacked on top of each other.

The storm system continued to churn through the region on Monday afternoon, and forecasters warned that new tornadoes could form.

An earlier storm system also spawned several tornadoes across Oklahoma on Sunday. Several deaths were reported.

Russell Schneider, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the risk of tornadoes throughout the region remained high going into Tuesday.

“This is prime time in the great plains for severe weather and May is the real peak,” he said.

Nick Oxford reported from Moore, and Michael Schwirtz from New York.

20 May 2013 Last updated at 17:42 ET I-BBC
Massive tornado rips through Oklahoma City suburbs

A gigantic tornado has ripped through a suburb of Oklahoma City, on the second day in a row the Midwestern state of Oklahoma has been slammed by twisters.

The "mile-wide" storm destroyed a primary school, sparked fires, and flattened homes.

On Sunday, at least two people died and 21 more were injured by the tornadoes.  The worst damage was in Shawnee, 35 miles (55km) from Oklahoma City, where a mobile home part was razed and thousands have lost electricity.  Children are being pulled alive from the wreckage of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, a suburb just south of Oklahoma City where the twister struck about 16:00 local time (22:00 BST) on Monday.

There have been no reports of children injured or killed there.

"It's going to take awhile to recover from something like this," Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole told CNN.

Tornadoes, hail and high winds also hit Iowa and Kansas, part of a storm system stretching from Texas to Minnesota.  The National Weather Service (NWS) says there is a continuing risk of dangerous thunderstorms in the region that could produce hail and tornadoes on Monday afternoon.

'Everything is gone'

On Sunday, a tornado smashed a trailer park on Highway 102 near Shawnee.

Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park resident James Hoke said he had emerged from a storm cellar with his family to find their mobile home vanished.

"Everything is gone," he said.

Storm chasers have filmed tornadoes touching down in Texas and Kansas

As he tried to help neighbours, Mr Hoke said he found his wife's father covered in rubble.

"My father-in-law was buried under the house. We had to pull Sheetrock off of him," Mr Hoke said.

Oklahoma's state medical examiner confirmed on Monday that two people had been killed near the trailer park: Glen Irish, 79, and Billy Hutchinson, 76.

Both lived in Shawnee, but it was not immediately clear if either or both lived in mobile home park.

The Oklahoman newspaper reported that five people were brought to Norman Regional Hospital for injuries, with three injured critically.

"This is the worst I've seen in Pottawatomie County in my 25 years of law enforcement," county Sheriff Mike Booth said.

The massive storm system had prompted the NWS to issue a blunt warning to residents in the affected states.

"You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter," the agency warned. "Complete destruction of neighbourhoods, businesses and vehicles will occur."

One resident, Amber Ash, said her home had been hit by a tornado as she waited in a storm shelter.

"Once it passed, we got out and saw the devastation," she said. "Everything I had was destroyed."

Thousands of residents in the affected areas have been left without power.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency in 16 counties in order to send aid to the worst-hit parts of the state.

At least four tornadoes ravaged the state on Sunday, part of a storm system that was moving north-east across the Midwestern states and Texas.

"Right now we're in a rescue and recovery stage," Gov Fallin said. "We're still not in the clear yet."

A twister with an estimated 110mph (177km/h) wind speed touched down on Sunday afternoon near Wichita's Mid-Continent airport.

It knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses, but bypassed the most populated areas of Kansas' largest city.

and earlier...

At least one person has died and several others were injured in a series of tornadoes that have torn through the US state of Oklahoma.

The worst damage was caused by a tornado near the town of Shawnee, 35 miles (55km) from Oklahoma City, local media report.  A mobile home park near Shawnee is said to have been razed.

Twisters, hail and high winds also hit Iowa and Kansas, part of a storm system stretching from Texas to Minnesota.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warned of a dangerous tornado approaching the city of Wichita, Kansas. It had earlier issued urgent appeals for people in parts of Oklahoma to take cover. 

'Wiped out'

In Oklahoma, a tornado smashed a trailer park on Highway 102 near Shawnee.  The body of a 79-year-old man was found out in the open afterwards, the Associated Press reports.  A Fox25 reporter in Shawnee said trees had been shredded and homes destroyed. Downed power lines were seen lying on roads.

Sheriff Mike Booth said: "It's pretty bad. It's pretty much wiped out."

One resident, Amber Ash, said her home was hit by a tornado as she waited in a storm shelter.

"Once it passed, we got out and saw the devastation. Everything I had was destroyed."

There was also serious damage in the town of Edmond but no injuries were reported.  Thousands of residents in the affected areas have been left without power.  Gov Mary Fallin said a state of emergency had been declared in 16 counties to enable help to get to the worst-hit parts of Oklahoma.  At least four tornadoes ravaged the state on Sunday, part of a storm system that was moving north-east across the Midwestern states and Texas.

"Right now we're in a rescue and recovery stage," Gov Fallin said. "We're still not in the clear yet."

The massive storm system prompted the NWS to issue a blunt warning to residents in the affected states. The agency said: "You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter. Complete destruction of neighbourhoods, businesses and vehicles will occur. Flying debris will be deadly to people and animals."

Meteorologists warn that the extreme weather is expected to continue on Monday.

Waterspout touches down in Winnipesaukee
By KATHRYN MARCHOCKI, New Hampshire Union Leader
June 26. 2012 12:29AM

A rare waterspout appeared off Chase's Island on Lake Winnipesaukee Monday night.

“It was definitely a waterspout and it lasted a couple of minutes,” National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Kimble said.

The waterspout occurred about 7 p.m. It is not known if it touched land or not. There were no reports of damage, he said.  Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water, Kimble said.

“The processes involved are different from the more violent tornadoes that occur with super-cell thunderstorms, but they are still a hazard to boaters and can cause damage if they move onshore,” he explained.

Not commonly seen in New Hampshire, waterspouts are most frequently spotted over tropical coastlines, he said.

100 Tornadoes in 24 Hours, but Plenty of Notice
April 16, 2012

WOODWARD, Okla. — The tornadoes were unrelenting — more than 100 in 24 hours over a stretch of the Plains states. They tossed vehicles and ripped through homes. They drove families to their basements and whipped debris across small towns throughout the Midwest. In some areas, baseball-size hail rained from the sky.

And yet, in a stroke that some officials have attributed to a more vigilant and persistent warning system, relatively few people were killed or injured.

As of Monday morning, the only six confirmed deaths from the weekend storms were all here in Woodward, a rural community about 140 miles from Oklahoma City. Local emergency management officials said on Monday that four children were among the victims and that 31 people had been hurt, with injuries ranging from minor wounds to those requiring hospitalization.  A spokeswoman for the state’s chief medical examiner identified five of the victims as Frank Hobbie, a 5-year-old girl and a 7-year-old girl, all of whom died after the tornado hit their mobile home park, and Darren Juul and a 10-year-old girl, both of whom died in a house a few miles away.

It was believed that the two girls were Mr. Hobbie’s daughters, and the 10-year-old girl was Mr. Juul’s daughter. The identity of the sixth victim, a critically injured child who was airlifted to a Texas hospital, has not been released.   Days ahead of the deadly winds there was an unusual warning that alerted residents across at least five states to the threat of “extremely dangerous” and “catastrophic” weather.

The predictions held, it seems. But the people listened.

“I really think people took the warnings, and they took them very seriously,” Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas said Sunday. “We had more notice on this system than you normally do. You normally are looking at a couple of hours’ notice. Well, this one had almost two days’ notice.”

In southwest Iowa, a tornado battered the small town of Thurman, damaging or destroying 75 to 90 percent of its homes, the authorities said. And yet, somehow in the town of about 200, there were no serious injuries or deaths reported. “Mostly everybody was able to get to cover before it hit,” said Mike Crecelius, the emergency management director for the county.  Nearby, the high winds overturned five tractor-trailers that had been traveling on Interstate 29 shortly before the tornado hit. One truck driver was taken to a hospital with a perforated lung, Mr. Crecelius said.

Forecasters issued their first warning on Friday, predicting a tornado outbreak that had the potential of being a “high-end, life-threatening event” for a swath of the Midwest.

Officials said the enhanced language had been developed because of the large number of deaths from tornadoes across the country in recent years. “This is one of the lessons learned from the various deadly outbreaks of tornadoes last year,” Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service, said Sunday in a telephone interview.

One warning in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday said: “This is a life-threatening situation. You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter.”

The system will be tested for another six months before National Weather Service officials decide whether to continue or expand it.  Before the storms hit on Saturday, Mike Hudson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Kansas City, Mo., called the forecast perhaps the “first opportunity” to gauge the effect of the heightened language.

Early returns were promising, officials said.

Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department, said, “The language that was being used appeared to make people pay more attention.” In 2011, 550 people nationwide, and more than 150 in Joplin, Mo., alone, were killed by tornadoes, Mr. Vaccaro said, the fourth deadliest year on record. The deadliest year was 1925, when 794 people were reported killed by tornadoes.

Weather service officials chose Kansas and Missouri to test the new language, Mr. Vaccaro said, because of the number of storms that typically develop there.

“We wanted to pick the central states because you’re in the heart of Tornado Alley,” he said.

Despite the impressive number of tornadoes, weather experts said the data did not indicate any significant increase in the number or the severity of storms in recent years.

“The occurrence of strong and violent storms has remained relatively stable over the long term,” said Bill Bunting, chief of operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

What seems to be happening, Mr. Bunting said, is that the public has become more aware of smaller storms that once might have gone unrecorded.

“We have more people chasing and more storm spotters,” he said, adding, “I suspect that they were always occurring, but there are more people chasing them now and documenting them with cameras.” But, Mr. Bunting said, there was an “active pattern” in which large-scale conditions like stronger jet streams interacting with widespread areas of unstable air were making an environment more favorable for tornadoes to form.

The tornadoes were part of a weather system that encompassed parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa and spawned 122 confirmed tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service. Officials said that 99 twisters hit Kansas on Saturday, but as of late Sunday afternoon, no deaths had been confirmed in the state.

“God was merciful,” Governor Brownback said on CNN.

The governor said that officials were continuing to assess damages across Kansas, and he signed an emergency declaration on Sunday.  That there was not more damage, loss of life or injuries caused by this weekend’s swarm of storms was due to at least two reasons, officials said. Most of the reported tornadoes were either brief or struck largely in sparsely populated rural areas.

Perhaps the most important reason that so many people were kept out of harm’s way was the Storm Prediction Center’s unusual step of issuing a dire warning days ahead of the storm.  Matt Lehenbauer, emergency management director for both the city and county of Woodward, said that 89 homes and 13 businesses were destroyed. He said the tornado struck between 12:15 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. Sunday, on a path that was two to three miles long and a quarter of a mile to a third of a mile wide.

There were eight tornadoes in Woodward County on Saturday. And on the previous Monday — the 65th anniversary of a deadly 1947 tornado — seven tornadoes touched down.

“It has been a very active week for severe weather for us,” Mr. Lehenbauer said.

But Mr. Lehenbauer said that a series of problems affected Woodward’s 20 sirens. One was struck by lightning. Others failed to work because the tornado took out master power lines south of the city, he said.

“We do know that the ones that did work were on for two to three minutes before they shut off, from the loss of electricity,” he said.

Mr. Lehenbauer said city officials were stunned by the destruction, but grateful as well.  “Looking at the damage, we are a bit surprised we don’t have more injuries and/or fatalities, because some of the damage is very, very extensive,” he said.

Johnny McMahan, 55, managing editor of The Woodward News, the town’s six-day-a-week newspaper, said Woodward is largely an oil-and-gas town with a population close to 15,000.  In one of the heavily damaged neighborhoods on Sunday afternoon, Gov. Mary Fallin, Mayor Roscoe Hill, and other city and state officials met with residents who were cleaning debris from their homes and making repairs.

Mr. Hill walked down the middle of a street as a light rain began to fall. The residents who had died were very much on his mind.  Asked if he had any regrets that several of the sirens failed, Mr. Hill replied, “Absolutely.”

“You don’t know if our sirens were working, maybe we could have saved one life,” he said.

Clear-up after tornadoes wreak havoc across US Midwest
3 March 2012 Last updated at 11:40 ET

US authorities in four Midwestern states are searching for survivors and clearing damage after a string of powerful storms and tornadoes left at least 31 people dead.

The states of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Alabama were all affected by the intense winds which flattened homes, lifted rooftops and downed powerlines.  An unknown number of people are missing after communication lines were damaged.  A total of 90 tornadoes and 700 severe weather events were reported on Friday.

Correspondents say it will be impossible to make an immediate assessment of the full extent of the damage.

'Completely gone'

At least 14 people died in southern Indiana, reports said, and another 13 in neighbouring Kentucky.  The small town of Marysville, Indiana, was almost completely destroyed, with the town's water tower one of the few buildings to remain undamaged, local reports said.

US tornado threat slowly recedes

Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden said that residents had been warned of oncoming storms but added: "This was the worst-case scenario. There's no way you can prepare for something like this."

In the town of Henryville, a roof was ripped from a school and a school bus thrown against a restaurant. No-one was seriously injured in either incident.

"We're not unfamiliar with Mother Nature's wrath out here in Indiana," Governor Mitch Daniels told CNN during a visit to the stricken south-eastern corner of the state on Saturday.

"But this is about as serious as we've seen in the years since I've been in this job," he said as he viewed the damage in Henryville.

Prison damaged

In Chelsea, southern Indiana, three members of one family - including a four-year-old child - died in their house when the storm struck.  The child and mother were huddled in a basement when the storm hit and sucked the child from her arms. The mother survived, but her 70-year-old grandparents, who were upstairs, both died.

"She was in the cellar with the boy when the tornado hit. It blew him right out of her hands," Tony Williams, the owner of the town's General Store said.

"They found the bodies in the field outside," he added, referring to the grandparents.

Three people were reported dead in Ohio while in northern Alabama, one person died.  At least 40 homes were destroyed and 150 damaged in the state while the roof of a prison in the path of the storm was damaged, forcing 300 inmates to be moved to another part of the facility.

Earlier this week, 13 people died after twisters swept through Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Tennessee.

Powerful Storms Cause Damage Across Several States
March 2, 2012

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — Powerful storms stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes flattened buildings in several states, wrecked two Indiana towns and bred anxiety across a wide swath of the country in the second powerful tornado outbreak this week.

Widespread damage was reported in southern Indiana, where Clark County Sheriff's Department Maj. Chuck Adams said the town of Marysville is "completely gone" and extreme damage was reported in nearby Henryville. Just east of there in Kentucky, an apparent tornado flattened a volunteer fire station. Dozens of houses were also damaged in Alabama and Tennessee two days after storms killed 13 people in the Midwest and South.

No fatalities had been reported in the latest round of storms that were expected to threaten tornadoes late into Friday.

Thousands of schoolchildren in several states were sent home as a precaution, and several Kentucky universities were closed. The Huntsville, Ala., mayor said students in area schools sheltered in hallways as severe weather passed in the morning.

At least 20 homes were badly damaged and six people were hospitalized in the Chattanooga, Tenn., area after strong winds and hail lashed the area. To the east in Cleveland, Blaine Lawson and his wife Billie were watching the weather when the power went out. Just as they began to seek shelter, strong winds ripped the roof off their home. Neither were hurt.

"It just hit all at once," said Blaine Lawson, 76. "Didn't have no warning really. The roof, insulation and everything started coming down on us. It just happened so fast that I didn't know what to do. I was going to head to the closet but there was just no way. It just got us."

In the Huntsville area, five people were taken to hospitals, and several houses were leveled by what authorities believed were tornadoes Friday morning. The extent of the people's injuries wasn't immediately known, and emergency crews were continuing to survey damage.

"Most of the children were in schools so they were in the hallways so it worked out very well," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

An apparent tornado also damaged a state maximum security prison about 10 miles from Huntsville, but none of the facility's approximately 2,100 inmates escaped. Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said there were no reports of injuries, but the roof was damaged on two large prison dormitories that each hold about 250 men. Part of the perimeter fence was knocked down, but the prison was secure.

"It was reported you could see the sky through the roof of one of them," Corbett said.

For residents and emergency officials across the state, tornado precautions and cleanup are part of a sadly familiar routine. A tornado outbreak last April killed about 250 people around the state, with the worst damage in Tuscaloosa to the south.

Forecasters warned of severe thunderstorms with the threat of tornadoes crossing a region from southern Ohio through much of Kentucky and Tennessee. By early Friday afternoon, tornado watches covered parts of those states along with Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma said they were bracing for what could be a potent tornado outbreak.

"Maybe five times a year we issue what is kind of the highest risk level for us at the Storm Prediction Center," forecaster Corey Mead said. "This is one of those days."

Mead said a powerful storm system was interacting with humid, unstable air that was streaming north from the Gulf of Mexico.

"The environment just becomes more unstable and provides the fuel for the thunderstorms," Mead said.

Schools sent students home early or cancelled classes entirely in states including Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky and Indiana. In Alabama alone, more than 20 school systems dismissed classes early Friday. The University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and several other colleges in the state also canceled classes.

At least 10 homes were damaged in a subdivision in Athens, Ala. Homeowner Bill Adams watched as two men ripped shingles off the roof of a house he rents out, and he fretted about predictions that more storms would pass through.

"Hopefully they can at least get a tarp on it before it starts again," he said.

Not far away, the damage was much worse for retired high school band director Stanley Nelson. Winds peeled off his garage door and about a third of his roof, making rafters and boxes in his attic visible from the street.

"It's like it just exploded," he said.

Forecasts, TV and luck eased tornado risk in Okla.
25 May 2011

PIEDMONT, Okla. – When three tornadoes marched toward Oklahoma City and its suburbs, thousands of people in the path benefited from good forecasts, luck and live television to avoid the kind of catastrophe that befell Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo.  Even though more than a dozen people died in the latest round of violent weather, schools and offices closed early, giving many families plenty of time to take shelter. And even stragglers were able to get to safety at the last minute because TV forecasters narrated the twisters' every turn.

"We live in Oklahoma and we don't mess around," Lori Jenkins of Guthrie said after emerging from a neighbor's storm shelter to find her carport crumpled and her home damaged.

The people of Oklahoma City, which has been struck by more tornadoes than any other U.S. city, knew the storms were coming. Anxiety was perhaps running higher than usual after last month's twister outbreak in the South that killed more than 300 people and a Sunday storm that killed at least 122 in Joplin, Mo.  The Oklahoma twisters proved to be weaker than the other tornadoes. But the minute-by-minute accounts of the developing weather helped thousands of people stay abreast of the danger.

Television helicopters broadcast live footage while the system approached the metropolitan area of 1.2 million people — calling out to specific communities like Piedmont to "Take cover now!"

In Guthrie, about 30 miles north of the capital city, Ron Brooks was watching when he learned that a tornado was barreling toward him. He heeded the weatherman's warning, scooped up his two children and took cover with his wife in their laundry room.

"When they told us to get into the shelter or interior room, we did that," Brooks said. "The first year I moved to Oklahoma, in 1997, I saw a funnel drop out of a wall cloud. Since seeing one, I've always taken it pretty seriously." He emerged 20 minutes later, relieved to learn that the tornado passed just north of his home.

Forecasters said another line of severe storms could sweep through the nation's midsection Wednesday, mainly east of Oklahoma. A tornado warning was briefly issued for downtown Kansas City, Mo., and at least two weak tornadoes touched down in or near the suburbs.  A few others were reported in Illinois. The storms were expected to move into western Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi later in the day.

In Joplin, rescue and recovery work went on Wednesday, with crews repeating grid searches for any survivors who might still be buried in rubble. Structural engineers were sent inside the ruins of St. John's Medical Center, which was crippled by the twister, to see if the hospital could be saved.  Back in Oklahoma City, broadcasters offered live coverage of the storms for two hours before the bad weather actually hit around the evening rush hour.

But across the border in Arkansas, people in the tiny hamlet of Denning didn't have such a luxury. A tornado killed at least one person there. Storms left three others dead elsewhere in Arkansas and killed two in Kansas.  The storms arrived in Denning in the darkness, with a warning posted only about 10 minutes before a tornado nearly obliterated the town of 270 shortly after midnight.

Troy Ellison didn't even have that much time.  He was watching a movie in his mobile home when he switched on the TV news. The tornado was four minutes away.

"We were going to take the work truck and get out," Ellison said. "I looked out the back door with my son and it was coming."

He dove under the kitchen table with his wife and two sons just before the tornado hit. "It got that growling sound and the windows popped," he said.

The tornado ripped the roof off his home and collapsed his workshop next door. Somehow, the family escaped unharmed.  Then Ellison went outside and saw the family dog, Jager, his paws splayed out on the ground. The animal "looked like someone stepped on him." Ellison assumed he was dead.  But the dog, a pit bull-boxer mix, turned out to be fine. By Wednesday, he was prancing around in the sun as the Ellisons moved belongings out of their home.

"He must have known to stay low to the ground," Ellison said.

Oklahoma City has been hit by tornadoes 146 times, according to the federal government's Storm Prediction Center. That history brings respect for severe storms and a simple rule for people who find themselves in a twister's path: Get out of the way or get underground.

"I think Oklahomans, simply because we're around it so much, take very seriously the threat of severe weather. It's something we live with year-round," said Michelann Ooten, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Emergency Management. "We have a genuine respect for the severe weather here."

Part of that comes from learning to deal with bad weather at a young age, Ooten said.  The long track of the storm in Piedmont gave Lynn Hartman's family time to take shelter and then run away. As warning sirens sounded, Hartman said, she huddled in the pantry of her Piedmont home with her two children and the family dog until her husband arrived home from work.

"We're there just crying and praying," Hartman said, and her daughter, Sierra, 10, was saying repeatedly, "I just don't want to die."

The family then decided to flee as the storm drew closer. They crossed the Oklahoma City area to Shawnee. Once there, sirens sounded again for a storm approaching from the south. The four drove around for three hours before returning to find their roof gone. The pantry was standing, but Hartman was not convinced the family would have survived.  Ooten said trying to outrun a tornado is dangerous.

"Find the sturdiest building you can gain access to," she said. "Unless you're an expert, I wouldn't try to outrun a tornado. You're not in charge. Mother Nature is the one in charge."

Violent storms kill 13 in Okla., Kan., Ark.
By KRISTI EATON, Associated Press
25 May 2011

EL RENO, Okla. – Violent storms with winds of more than 150 mph slammed into a chunk of the central U.S. overnight, killing at least 13 people in three states, flattening homes, crushing cars and ripping apart a rural Arkansas fire station.

The high-powered storms arrived Tuesday night and early Wednesday, just days after a massive tornado tore up the southwest Missouri city of Joplin and killed 122 people.

The latest storms killed at least eight people in Oklahoma and two in Kansas before trekking east into Arkansas to claim three more lives.

Just outside the tiny community of Denning in western Arkansas, winery owner Eugene Post listened to from his porch as a tornado barreled toward his home. He saw the lights flicker, as the storms yanked power from the community.

"I didn't see anything," Post, 83, said early Wednesday. "I could hear it real loud though. ... It sounded like a train — or two or three — going by."

Department of Emergency Management spokesman Tommy Jackson said one person died in that tornado early Wednesday, and another was killed in Bethlehem, Johnson County. Franklin County's chief deputy sheriff, Deputy Devin Bramlett, said early Wednesday that a third person died in Etna.

"I don't know, it's just unbelievable," said Rick Covert, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator for Franklin County, Ark. "It's just total devastation."

A rural fire station in Franklin County was left without a roof as emergency workers rushed to the wounded. Downed trees and power lines tossed across roadways also slowed search-and-rescue crews' efforts.

Emergency officials have accounted for everyone else in Bethlehem, said county emergency management director Josh Johnston. Crews were working through the night in the hopes of saying the same thing for other communities.

Hours earlier, several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during the Tuesday night rush hour, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 60 others, including three children who were in critical condition, authorities said.

Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office, said five people were killed in Canadian County, two in Logan County and one in Grady County. A weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 151 mph winds.

Ballard said a child was among those killed, but she had no other details.

The storms destroyed homes in Piedmont, some 20 miles northwest of Oklahoma City and threw vehicles about like toys tossed from a stroller.

"My husband and I were driving around yesterday and went past a house and there was a vehicle in the pond in the front yard. The only way I could tell it was a vehicle was I could see four wheels above the water. It was a crushed ball," Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson said Wednesday.

"We have anything from houses that have shingles blown off, to half the house missing, to the house being completely wiped out, gone," Thomerson said.

Some residents said they had been warned about the impending weather for days and were watching television or listening to the radio so they would know when to take cover.

"We live in Oklahoma and we don't mess around," Lori Jenkins said. "We kept an eye on the weather and knew it was getting close."

She took refuge with her husband and two children in a neighbor's storm shelter in the Oklahoma City suburb of Guthrie. When they emerged, they discovered their carport had been destroyed and the back of their home was damaged.

Chris Pyle was stunned as he pulled into the suburban neighborhood near Piedmont where he lived as a teenager. His parents' home was destroyed, but the house next door had only a few damaged shingles.

"That's when it started sinking in," he said. "You don't know what to think. There are lots of memories, going through the trash tonight, finding old trophies and pictures."

His parents, Fred and Snow Pyle, rode out the storm in a shelter at a nearby school.

At Chickasha, 25 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, a 26-year-old woman died when a tornado hit a mobile home park where residents had been asked to evacuate their trailers, Assistant Police Chief Elip Moore said. He said a dozen people were injured and that hundreds were displaced when the storm splintered their homes.

In Kansas, police said two people died when high winds threw a tree into their van around 6 p.m. near the small town of St. John, about 100 miles west of Wichita. The highway was shut down because of storm damage.

The path of the storms included Joplin, which is cleaning up from a Sunday storm that was the nation's eighth-deadliest twister among records dating to 1840. Late-night tornado sirens had Joplin's residents ducking for cover again before the storm brushed past without serious problems.

The storms also blew through North Texas, but the damage seemed to be confined to roofs and trees and lawn furniture and play equipment.

"The hail was probably more destructive," said Steve Fano, National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth.

Death toll from Joplin tornado is at least 139
By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press
29 May 2011

JOPLIN, Mo. – The numbers look increasingly bleak for families hoping for the best after a monster tornado that devastated the town of Joplin, with city officials saying death toll is at least 139. State officials say 100 people are still missing.

Thousands more people far beyond Joplin had been waiting for good news about a teen believed to have been ejected or sucked from his vehicle on the way home from graduation. Several social-networking efforts specifically focused on finding information about Will Norton.

But his family says he, too, is among the dead — found in a pond near where his truck was located.

"At least we know that he wasn't out there suffering," his aunt Tracey Presslor said, holding a framed portrait of her 18-year-old nephew at a news conference. "Knowing that he was gone right away was really a blessing for us."

Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr said Saturday during a news conference that the death toll rose by three to at least 142, but later revised that figure down to 139 without elaboration.

Mike O'Connell, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, told The Associated Press on Saturday that he could not confirm the city's updated death toll number. He said the state of Missouri currently places the death toll at 126, saying they have no reason to raise that number.

State officials say there are 142 sets of human remains at the morgue handling those killed by the storm and some could be from the same victim.

If the death toll does stand at 139, it would place this year's tornado death toll at 520 and make 2011 the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1950. Until now, the highest recorded death toll by the National Weather Service in a single year was 519 in 1953. There were deadlier storms before 1950, but those counts were based on estimates and not on precise figures.

On Saturday night, the Department of Public Safety made public a list of 73 people who had been confirmed dead and whose next of kin had been notified.

The tornado — an EF-5 packing 200 mph winds _also injured more than 900 people. Tallying and identifying the dead and the missing has proven a complex, delicate and sometimes confusing exercise for both authorities and loved ones...

City: Joplin tornado death toll rises to 125
By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press
Wed May 25, 7:10 pm ET

JOPLIN, Mo. – Rescue crews refused to be deterred Wednesday even as Joplin officials said no new survivors were pulled from the rubble left by behind the single deadliest tornado in decades and the death toll rose to at least 125.

More than 900 people also were injured by a mighty twister the National Weather Service said was an EF5, the strongest rating assigned to tornadoes, with winds of more than 200 mph. But officials in the southwest Missouri city of 50,000 people said they're holding out hope for more rescues.

"We never give up. We're not going to give up," City Manager Mark Rohr told an evening news conference. "We'll continue to search as we develop the next phase in the process."

Roughly 100 people were meanwhile reviewing information about people reported missing in the storm's wake. Rohr said they're making progress in sorting through the list of names, but declined to say how many people remain "unaccounted for."

He said officials plan to release the names of the 125 people killed "as soon as we can."

The Joplin tornado was the deadliest single twister since the weather service began keeping official records in 1950 and the eighth-deadliest in U.S. history. Scientists said it appeared to be a rare "multivortex" tornado, with two or more small and intense centers of rotation orbiting the larger funnel.

Bill Davis, the lead forecaster on a National Weather Service survey team, said he would need to look at video to try to confirm that. But he said the strength of the tornado was evident from the many stout buildings that were damaged: St. John's Regional Medical Center, Franklin Technology Center, a bank gone except for its vault, a Pepsi bottling plant and "numerous, and I underscore numerous, well-built residential homes that were basically leveled."

Davis' first thought on arriving in town to do the survey, he said, was: "Where do you start?"

Our view: Standing tall
The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO
May 24, 2011

JOPLIN, Mo. — 

A monster of a tornado, at least a half a mile wide and over six miles in length, moved across the center of a Midwest city, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

It’s us, not them. We have joined the ranks of major disaster areas worldwide.

Many of us cannot even see the scenes on TV because we have no TV or our cable is down or the power is off. Loved ones around the world call and describe a bigger picture than we can see from our homes or offices. If, that is, we have a home or office left standing.

In less than 30 minutes late Sunday afternoon, 30 percent or more of our city was destroyed. A hospital was severely damaged.

Medical triage was quickly established, and health care personnel are treating the injured as if in a war zone. The governor has declared the storm to be the worst tornado in Missouri history.

It is now us, not them, holding the attention of the public across the country. And the country is responding quickly and fiercely with emergency aid pouring into Joplin, instead of leaving Joplin for New Orleans, Haiti or Alabama.

The Missouri National Guard was mobilized within two or three hours of the storm, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency had people on the ground in Joplin within 12 hours with many more to follow. The American Red Cross has a functioning shelter and aid center in place some 16 hours after the storm. The nation is responding to us now, and we are grateful.

But, as with any disaster anywhere, what matters most are people helping other people, one on one, family on family, people working — some heroically — as a community. And Joplin is standing tall in that regard even as more clouds thunder overhead.

Homes still standing are being filled with friends, neighbors and loved ones who have no homes. There are currently beds available in shelters along with food and clothes. Insurance checks are already being written to begin the rebuilding process, and more will follow in the coming days. Most important, the city, while devastated, seems to be maintaining its calm.

At 5:45 p.m. Sunday, May 22, an American city yet again received a terrible blow, this one from Mother Nature. But 70 percent of our community is still standing and now responding as most Americans do in times of catastrophe — with great courage, resilience and determination. United, as a community, we are ready to save more lives, provide shelter and food as needed and begin to clear the wreckage so the rebuilding can begin.

Mo. tornado single deadliest in US since 1950
24 May 2011

JOPLIN, Mo. – A tornado that killed 117 people in Missouri was the single deadliest twister in the past 60 years, according to National Weather Service.

Gov. Jay Nixon's spokesman, Sam Murphey, said Tuesday morning that the death toll in Joplin had risen to 117.

Until this week, the single deadliest tornado on record with the National Weather Service in the past six decades was a twister that killed 116 people in Flint, Mich., in 1953.

More deaths have resulted from outbreaks of multiple tornadoes. On April 27, a pack of twisters roared across six Southern states, killing 314 people, more than two-thirds of them in Alabama. That was the single deadliest day for tornadoes since the National Weather Service began keeping such records in 1950.

The agency has done research that shows deadlier outbreaks before 1950. It says the single deadliest day that it is aware of was March 18, 1925, when tornadoes killed 747 people.

Sunday's killer tornado ripped through the heart of Joplin, a blue-collar southwest Missouri city of 50,000 people, slamming straight into St. John's Regional Medical Center. The hospital confirmed that five of the dead were patients — all of them in critical condition before the tornado hit. A hospital visitor also was killed.

The tornado destroyed possibly "thousands" of homes, Fire Chief Mitch Randles told AP. It leveled hundreds of businesses, including massive ones such as Home Depot and Walmart.

Speaking from London, President Barack Obama said he would travel to Missouri on Sunday to meet with people whose lives have been turned upside down by the twister. He vowed to make all federal resources available for efforts to recover and rebuild.

"The American people are by your side," Obama said. "We're going to stay there until every home is repaired, until every neighborhood is rebuilt, until every business is back on its feet."

Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told NBC's "Today" show Tuesday that Obama has declared a disaster in the area, which means residents are eligible for his agency's assistance.

"We're here for the long haul, not just for the response," Fugate said.

Fugate, Nixon and Sen. Claire McCaskill were viewing the damage Tuesday by helicopter, Murphey said.

Much of Joplin's landscape has been changed beyond recognition. House after house was reduced to slabs, cars were crushed like soda cans and shaken residents roamed streets in search of missing family members.

The danger was by no means over. Fires from gas leaks burned across city. The smell of ammonia and propane filled the air in some damaged areas. And the forecast looked grim.

The April tornadoes that devastated the South unspooled over a three-day period starting in the Plains. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said a repeat could be setting up, with a possible large tornado outbreak in the Midwest on Tuesday and bad weather potentially reaching the East Coast by Friday.

"This is a very serious situation brewing," center director Russell Schneider said.

Early Tuesday, the center said there was a moderate risk of severe weather in central and southeast Kansas and southwestern Missouri, which could include Joplin. It raised the warning for severe weather in central Oklahoma, southern Kansas and north Texas to high risk indicating that tornadoes will hit in those areas.

The Storm Prediction Center also issued a high-risk warning before the deadly outbreak in the South in April.

Death toll in Missouri rises to 116; 7 rescued
23 May 2011

JOPLIN, Mo. – A massive tornado that tore a six-mile path across southwestern Missouri killed at least 116 people as it smashed the city of Joplin, ripping into a hospital, crushing cars and leaving behind only splintered tree trunks where entire neighborhoods once stood.

City Manager Mark Rohr announced the new death toll at a Monday afternoon news conference. He said seven people had been rescued, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he was "optimistic that there are still lives out there to be saved."

Authorities warned that the death toll could climb as search-and-rescue workers continued their efforts. Their task was made more miserable early Monday by a new thunderstorm that brought strong winds, heavy rain and hail.

Much of the city's south side has been leveled, with churches, schools, businesses and homes reduced to ruins by winds of up to 198 mph.

Jasper County Emergency Management Director Keith Stammer said about 2,000 buildings were damaged. Joplin Fire Chief Mitch Randles estimated the damage covered a quarter or more of the city of about 50,000 people some 160 miles south of Kansas City. He said his home was among those destroyed.

An unknown number of people were injured, and officials said patients were sent to any nearby hospitals that could take them.

Police officers staffed virtually every major intersection as ambulances screamed through the streets. Rescuers involved in a door-to-door searches moved gingerly around downed power lines and jagged debris, while survivors picked through the rubble of their homes, salvaging clothes, furniture, family photos and financial records, the air pungent with the smell of gas and smoking embers.

Some neighborhoods were completely flattened and the leaves stripped from trees, giving the landscape an apocalyptic aura. In others where structures still stood, families found their belongings jumbled as if someone had picked up their homes and shaken them.

Nixon had said earlier that he feared the death toll would rise but expected survivors to be found in the rubble.

"I don't think we're done counting," Nixon told The Associated Press, adding, "I still believe that because of the size of the debris and the number of people involved that there are lives to be saved."

The National Weather Service's director, Jack Hayes, says the storm was given a preliminary label as an EF4 — the second-highest rating given to twisters. The rating is assigned to storms based on the damage they cause. Hayes said the storm had winds of 190 to 198 miles per hour. At times, the storm was three-quarters of a mile wide.

Crews found bodies in vehicles the storm had flipped over, torn apart and left crushed like empty cans. Triage centers and temporary shelters quickly filled to capacity. At Memorial Hall, a downtown entertainment venue, emergency workers treated critically injured patients.

At another makeshift unit at a Lowe's home-improvement store, wooden planks served as beds. Outside, ambulances and fire trucks waited for calls. In the early hours of the morning, emergency vehicles were scrambling nearly every two minutes.

Death Toll Rises to 89 From Missouri Tornado
May 23, 2011

JOPLIN, Mo. — Much of this southwestern Missouri city lay in ruins Monday morning after a massive tornado, the latest storm to ravage the Midwest and South this spring, tore through the area, killing at least 89 people. Officials say they expect the death toll to climb.

The twister, which touched down at about 6 p.m. Sunday, ripped apart buildings, touched off fires, uprooted trees and tossed cars, leaving them mangled stacks of metal.

On Monday morning, Doug Stillions, 59, and his wife, Melissa Stillions, 37, said that when they heard the tornado warning siren go off Sunday they hurriedly took cover in a neighbor’s basement with their 3-year-old son.

“It was just a black wall to the west,” Mr. Stillions said. “It was dark as night.”

They said they had held hands and prayed as the tornado slammed through at thunderous volume and an accompanying pressure so intense the couple said it felt as if their heads might explode.

As the sun rose Monday morning, they walked out into a world in which the few trees left standing had the bark stripped off them, a house on a hillside had been swept up and carried into a road, and the Stillions’ own home had part of its roof sheared off.

St. John’s Regional Medical Center, a major hospital in this city of 48,000 people, had to be abandoned, witnesses said, and the triage unit set up on its grounds to care for the patients had to be temporarily moved across the street when the hospital caught fire.

Joplin, which sits near Missouri’s borders with Kansas and Oklahoma, was in the direct path of the tornado. It was left isolated and in the dark after the destruction, with telephone connections largely cut off and many homes without electricity.

The death toll was confirmed by the city manager, Mark Rohr. Tornadoes have killed hundreds of people during the past two months and caused millions of dollars in damage from Minnesota and Missouri to Oklahoma and North Carolina. Tuscaloosa, Ala., continues to recover from a massive twister that tore through the city in late April.

In Joplin, the local newspaper, the Joplin Globe, said teams with body bags had been dispatched on Sunday night to Home Depot, Wal-Mart and other local businesses.

Joplin’s was by far the worst damage on a day of brutal storms in the Midwest, including a tornado in Minneapolis that city officials said left one person dead and dozens injured in an area that covered several blocks. By Sunday night, Missouri’s governor, Jay Nixon, had already activated the National Guard and declared a state of emergency.

The White House said that President Obama, who is on a state trip to Europe, was receiving frequent updates. Mr. Obama said Federal Emergency Management Agency workers had been dispatched to Joplin.

“FEMA is working with the affected area’s state and local officials to support response and recovery efforts, and the federal government stands ready to help our fellow Americans as needed,” Mr. Obama said.

Weather experts were still trying to assess exactly what had produced such damage. “The power lines have gone down — we can’t reach anyone there,” Bill Davis, a meteorologist at the Springfield, Mo., office of the National Weather Service, said in a telephone interview. He said any assessment of exactly how strong the tornado was would have to wait until tomorrow, when experts would drive to Joplin. However, he said, on a scale from 1 to 10, the tornado looked to be “on the 8-9 level.”

He compared it to a tornado that struck in May 2008 and left a dozen dead in the same part of Missouri. “It very much looked like that supercell,” he said, though that storm managed to spare Joplin a direct hit.

Mr. Bettes, the meteorologist, said that the storm that hit Joplin had been hard to read — which was why his crew was willing to travel so close to it. “It was a rain-wrapped tornado,” he said. “When it is obscured by rain, you can’t tell what the danger is.”

One Joplin resident, Donald Davis, described to The Springfield News-Leader driving through the city, saying that Joplin High School’s windows were broken out and part of its roof was missing. A church across the street was demolished, he said. He also described damage to a grocery store and a large apartment building.

“They’re flattened,” Mr. Davis said. “You just can’t believe it. There must have been 150 units. One lady had a bathrobe around her. Others just had blankets around them.”

The scene at St. John’s hospital was equally overwhelming. “I spoke to a couple of nurses who were on the sixth floor,” said Mike Jenkins, a senior producer at Weather Channel who was with Mr. Bettes at the hospital. “The